White House sheds cyber coordinator role

The White House has opted to eliminate the cyber coordinator role on the National Security Council, in what some see as a step back in strong cybersecurity policy. The duties formerly performed by the coordinator will be taken up by the other two senior directors of the NSC’s cyber team. Politico first reported the news.

Rob Joyce, who left the role on Friday, was chief of an NSA hacking outfit (Tailored Access Operations) last March. John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, ended the role with Joyce’s departure; a memo sent to NSC employees explained that the elimination is to “streamline authority” in the Council. The other directors will pick up the slack.

The cyber coordinator role was first created by President Obama in 2009; its occupant in charge of, as you might expect, coordinating national cybersecurity policy across the many places in the government where it is being addressed.

In a time when cyber policy is increasing in importance and cyber-threats are clear and present in the country’s elections and other critical infrastructure, it seems a strange decision to “streamline” rather than bolster an important cybersecurity-related office.

Trump’s administration has made noises about taking cybersecurity seriously, and in other areas has taken steps to improve things — for instance, its choice in August to elevate the Military’s Cyber Command and give it more independence. This added roles, rather than subtracting them. But Bolton’s moves put more hats on fewer people, which would seem to complicate authority rather than streamline it.

It is possible that this is all part of a larger plan that will ultimately result in better decision-making capabilities and an improved cyber policy organ, but if so, the plan is unclear, even to those in the know.

It’s almost as if the federal government’s policies on cybersecurity aren’t quite in sync. Maybe they should appoint someone to coordinate them!

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