Bipartisan House bill would set up a White House cyber director

The legislation would follow the Cyberspace Solarium's recommendation for a Senate-confirmed director to advise the president on cybersecurity policy.

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers who are active on technology issues introduced legislation to mandate a new cybersecurity director position in the White House.

The National Cyber Director Act, introduced by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), would place the director as the principal advisor to the President on cybersecurity strategy and policy. It would also create two new deputy positions under the director, one to focus on planning and operations and another on strategy, capabilities and budget. The official would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The director would develop U.S. National Cyber Strategy, review the annual cybersecurity budgets for federal agencies and coordinate digital security issues across federal agencies with the Federal CIO and CISO, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, NIST and other agencies. The position would also sit on the National Security Council, establish "clear lines of authority and…effort across the federal government" and lead joint interagency planning for responding to cyberattacks.

"Only within the White House can we cohesively develop and implement a truly whole-of-nation cyber strategy that is commensurate with the threats we face," said Langevin in a statement. "By establishing a National Cyber Director with the policy and budgetary authority to reach across government, we can better address cybersecurity vulnerabilities and gaps holistically and prevent catastrophic cyber incidents."

Creating the position was one of the centerpiece recommendations of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which Gallagher co-chaired and Langevin served as a commissioner, and has been a top priority for many lawmakers since former National Security Advisor John Bolton eliminated the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position on the National Security Council in 2018.

Having an empowered director solely dedicated to cybersecurity at the White House "is fundamental to implementing some [other Solarium] ideas," said Nick Leiserson, Langevin's legislative director during a June 25 meeting with the Information and Security Privacy Advisory Board.

The legislation appears to have bipartisan support in the House, and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is also a supporter. Still, Langevin and other supporters have indicated there may be difficulty getting the White House to sign off on legislation dictating how it structures its national security bureaucracy.

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