October 7, 2020
U.S. House Representative
Chief Government Affairs and Public Policy Officer, Blackberry
Last year, Congress passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a piece of legislation that Congress passes annually that changes U.S. defense agency policies and provides guidance on military spending. One of the provisions included was establishing a National Cyber Director within the executive branch. This new position would be the chief advisor to the President on cybersecurity policies and defense strategies.
Because of recent cyberattacks on the United States, adding this role strengthens the nation's defense systems. As of the writing of this article, the Biden administration has not yet filled this role and is studying how the job should be structured. In the meantime, it’s important to understand this role and how it impacts American security.
The National Cyber Director Will Directly Work with the President on Cybersecurity Issues
Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island noted that the National Cyber Director will work with the Executive Office of the President with policy and budgetary authority to compel departments and agencies to close and address any vulnerabilities within their systems.
“The goal is … to prevent the next Office of Personnel Management breach from happening,” he said. “And this person would have that authority.”
“It resurrects the White House cybersecurity coordinator position that was abolished by John Bolton, the National Security Adviser,” Representative Langevin continued. “It really infuses the role with policy and their responsibility to steer the cybersecurity programs and coordinate incident response.”
Adding the National Cyber Director Will Strengthen Existing Agencies
Oftentimes people worry about the federal government becoming a bottleneck. With so many voices offering different opinions on how to guide the country, priorities can get bogged down. By reinstating a National Cyber Director, the government will have someone, “to help guide, provide strategy, and compel to get things done.”
“This isn't going to negate the relationships that they have already with existing agencies, nor should it,” said Christopher Roberti, SVP of Cyber, Intelligence, and Supply Chain Security Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Because if you only have one person that anyone can talk to, that becomes a choke point. You need to maintain the existing relationships that exist, strengthen them, build on them, but having that key officer in the government, in the White House will really help to guide and provide a coherent strategy that the U.S. government can follow and that the private sector can engage with.”
From the Series