House lawmaker to Biden: Pick a new cyber diplomat already

A senior House Republican on Wednesday said he is concerned President Joe Biden hasn’t nominated a leader for a new State Department bureau that aims to set international norms for cybersecurity.

Foggy Bottom is “going forward but we really need to appoint that ambassador position,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a Washington Post Live event.

His comments come weeks after the State Department opened a new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. The long-awaited office is supposed to be led by a Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large but the president hasn’t announced any potential nominee.

McCaul, who co-founded the House Cybersecurity Caucus, also called on the Senate to take up legislation, known as the Cyber Diplomacy Act, that would enshrine the diplomatic post and office into law. The bill passed the House early last year.

Senate lawmakers “like the bill. They're just kind of holding on to it to put on another piece of their legislation,” according to McCaul.

The most likely legislative vehicle would be the annual defense policy bill, most likely as an amendment. The House is slated to begin crafting its version of the mammoth authorization measure next month.

Speaking at the same event, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said establishing norms and standards is imperative for the general public as cybercrime like ransomware increases along with worries of all-out digital warfare with adversaries like Russia and China.

“We don't have real doctrine on this and we certainly don't have anything like an arms control regime for cyber that lays out the rules and standards for the international communities that there's some sort of agreed upon framework by which we prosecute these new wars, basically,” according to Slotkin, a former CIA officer and Pentagon official who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Martin Matishak

Martin Matishak is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.

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