The Trump administration has eliminated the White House’s top cyber policy role, jettisoning a key position created during the Obama presidency to harmonize the government's overall approach to cybersecurity policy and digital warfare.
POLITICO first reported last week that John Bolton, President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, was maneuvering to cut the cyber coordinator role, in a move that many experts and former government officials criticized as a major step backward for federal cybersecurity policy.
According to an email sent to National Security Council staffers Tuesday, the decision is part of an effort to “streamline authority” for the senior directors who lead most NSC teams. “The role of cyber coordinator will end,” Christine Samuelian, an aide to Bolton, wrote in the email to NSC employees, which POLITICO obtained from a former U.S. official.
The NSC’s cyber team has two senior directors, Samuelian wrote, and thus “cyber coordination is already a core capability.”
Rob Joyce, Trump’s first coordinator who came from the NSA, left the White House on Friday and will return to Fort Meade. Cyber policy experts, lawmakers and former officials had urged Trump to replace Joyce and not to abolish the position.
“I don’t see how getting rid of the top cyber official in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats,” Senate Intelligence ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted Tuesday.
In her email, Samuelian said that “eliminating another layer of bureaucracy delivers greater ‘decision, activity, secrecy and despatch,’” quoting Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 70.
The cyber coordinator led a team of directors and senior directors who worked with agencies to develop a unified strategy for issues like election security and digital deterrence. The coordinator also represented the administration in meetings with foreign partners and at conferences and other public events.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.