The News Blender reported last week that National Security Adviser John Bolton was in favor of eliminating the role of Cybersecurity Coordinator at the White House.
Today, Politico reports they have obtained an email sent to National Security Council staffers from an aide to John Bolton regarding the elimination of the position.
According to an email sent to National Security Council staffers Tuesday, the decision is part of an effort to “streamline authority” for the senior directors who lead most NSC teams. “The role of cyber coordinator will end,” Christine Samuelian, an aide to Bolton, wrote in the email to NSC employees, which POLITICO obtained from a former U.S. official.
The NSC’s cyber team has two senior directors, Samuelian wrote, and thus “cyber coordination is already a core capability.”
Samuelian stated that eliminating a layer of bureaucracy will aid in effectiveness. But cybersecurity experts and law makers have urged the President not to eliminate the position. The Cybersecurity coordinator was a special assistant to the President and headed up a team that developed a unified strategy for threats to election security. The coordinator also served as a liason between the Federal government and the private sector.
The former Cyber coordinator, Rob Joyce, left the White House on Friday to return to the NSA.
The elimination of this role comes at a time when the Trump administration is under scrutiny by a Special Counsel’s investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s use of social media to disrupt the 2016 election.
Last Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a preliminary report with recommendations on election security after a 16 month investigation into the role Russia played in the 2016 presidential election. They concluded that Russian hackers conducted an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure and that the Department of Homeland Security’s initial response to the cybersecurity threat by the Russians was inadequate. As the U.S. attempts to identify weaknesses and shore up vulnerabilities, it is crucial that cybersecurity concerns be coordinated effectively with the various agencies involved.
Concerns about Russia as a cyber threat is only a small part of the global threats the U.S. faces. Cyber theft and the threat to our power grid are crucial concerns as well. Cyber attacks will be the battlefield of the future and will require forward thinking to protect the nation from threats.
John Bolton has been criticized for advocating cyber warfare while not valuing cybersecurity. One source told Politico that Bolton does not consider cybersecurity a priority. “He’s not interested in it. He doesn’t see the point in it,” the source said. “There’s a serious concern on the [NSC] right now, particularly the [cyber team], of what the fate of their directorate is moving forward.”
Why It Matters
As believers in small government, we might have a tendency to automatically think the elimination of a bureaucratic role is a step in the right direction.
But the Federal government has one job above all others that is required of it and that is to protect the citizens of the United States. By eliminating a position that is crucial to the prevention of cyber attacks, the Trump administration has left the nation vulnerable at a time when the stakes have never been higher. Bureaucratic departments have never been able to efficiently guide themselves without steady leadership. There is no reason to believe the various departments involved in cybersecurity will be able to do so now that the role of coordinator has been eliminated.
Whatever the rationale behind this decision, the nation is not safer. And simply eliminating positions without ensuring the work that position was responsible for is not the way governing power should be wielded.