Bill creating an Office of Cyber Issues in the State Department proposed
Bill creating an Office of Cyber Issues in the State Department proposed

A bipartisan group of Representatives has introduced the Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017 that if passed would establish a high-level Office of Cyber Issues at the State Department.

The bill, HR 3776, was brought forth by Rep. Ed Royce, R-CA, Eliot Engel, D-NY, and Ted Liue, D-CA, that along with the creation of the office at the State Department along with require the federal government to develop a public international cyberspace strategy with Congressional oversight over international cyber agreements.

“The 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. 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,” Lieu said, while decrying what he called the Trump Administration's decision to “wind-down the already limited work the State Department conducts on cyber issues.”

In July the State Department shuttered its Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues and folded it into the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. This office was responsible for actions like negotiating the U.S.-China cyber agreement.

The Office of Cyber Issues would be headed by a person with the rank and status of ambassador and be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The positions duties would include:

  • Performing such duties and exercise such powers as the Secretary of State shall prescribe, including implementing the policy of the United States described in section 3 of the Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017.
  • Serve as the principal cyber-policy official within the senior management of the Department of State and advisor to the Secretary of State for cyber issues.
  • Lead the Department of State's diplomatic cyberspace efforts generally, including relating to international cybersecurity, internet access, internet freedom, digital economy, cybercrime, deterrence and international responses to cyber threats.

The bill calls for any person appointed to head the office as having a demonstrated competency in cybersecurity and related cyber fields, along with being skilled at international diplomacy.

It also states that one year after the bill's passage the Secretary of State, working with other federal departments, will produce a strategy relating to United States international policy with regard to cyberspace.