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Lawmakers Propose Bill to Counter State Department Cuts to Cyber Offices

September 14th, 2017

By: Connor Breza


Responding to Secretary of State Tillerson’s plans to eliminate and consolidate the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, lawmakers spanning across party lines have proposed a bill this week to preserve the department and strengthen U.S. cyber security and diplomacy.  In a statement last week, Congressman Ted W. Lieu announced a bipartisan bill titled the Cyber Diplomacy Act, introduced by Congressman Royce of California, which Congressman Lieu claims “will build the structure, strategy and oversight at the State Department to ensure that U.S. leadership extends to the critical areas of cyberspace.”

The at-risk department was established in 2011 under President Obama and Secretary Clinton to coordinate the State Department’s international diplomatic cyber policy goals and to act as a liaison between federal agencies as well as the public and private sector in regard to cyber issues.  According to The Hill, many critics of Secretary Tillerson’s plan to eliminate this department, and reassign it to a department responsible mainly for business issues, will leave the United States in a weaker diplomatic position.


Remarking on this sentiment in his statement, Congressman Lieu further asserted that, “[t]he U.S. cannot lead on international cyber issues if we don’t have anyone sitting at the negotiating table or a clearly-defined strategy to guide them.”


According to Bloomberg News, Secretary Tillerson’s determination to eliminate the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues is consistent with the current administration’s goal to consolidate departments that have similar policy goals and overlap in order to cut the State Department and other agency’s budget by eliminating “special envoy” offices.


To close his statement, Congressman Lieu reinforced the importance of the Cyber Diplomacy Act and preserving the cyber department, stating that he is “proud to join [his] colleagues today in rejecting that approach by introducing the bipartisan Cyber Diplomacy Act, which will build the structure, strategy and oversight at the State Department to ensure that U.S. leadership extends to critical areas of cyberspace. As cyber issues continue to permeate every region and issue area – from intellectual property to human rights – setting international norms to guide states’ behavior and developing international agreements to enforce them will be more important than ever.”

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