Department of State announces plan for new cyberspace bureau

February 16, 2018

Author(s): Eric M. Ferrante

Noting that “[c]yberspace policy affects almost every aspect of modern American life and . . . is a critical foreign policy imperative,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced his plan to create the Bureau for Cyberspace and the Digital Economy. Secretary Tillerson made his plans known in a letter to Representative Edward R. Royce (R-Cal.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Under Secretary Tillerson’s proposal, the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues and the Bureau of Economic Affairs’ Office of International Communications and Information Policy would be combined into the new bureau. According to the secretary’s letter, the combination of these two offices into a single bureau will “align existing resources under a single Department of State official to formulate and coordinate a strategic approach necessary to address current and emerging cyber security and digital economic challenges.” The new bureau would be led by an assistant secretary that would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Secretary Tillerson’s letter outlined several goals of the new bureau, including, among other things, to “establish a global deterrence framework in which participating [s]tates make a political commitment to work together to impose consequences on [s]tates that engage in malicious cyber activities”[,] “advise and coordinate external responses to national-security level cyber incidents” and to “promote an international regulatory environment for technology investments and the Internet that benefits U.S. economic and national security interests.”

Secretary Tillerson did not provide any timeline for the development of the new bureau.

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