As the State Department undergoes a reorganization under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a new cyber directorate will help embassies, consulates and diplomats thwart threats and mitigate risks.
As the State Department undergoes a reorganization under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a new cyber directorate will help embassies, consulates and diplomats thwart threats and mitigate risks.

After saying it would shutter and fold the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues into the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, raising concerns that cybersecurity would be on a backburner, the State Department has confirmed that it established a Cyber and Technology Security (CTS) directorate last May 28,

“CTS facilitates the conduct of global diplomacy by protecting life, property, and information with advanced cybersecurity programs and risk-managed technology innovation,” a State Department spokeswoman told Federal News Radio. “CTS provides advanced cyber threat analysis, incident detection and response, cyber investigative support and emerging technology solutions.”

The directorate, currently under the leadership of interim director Lonnie Price, falls under the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and represents a single “belly button” for diplomatic interests to push to stay abreast of vulnerabilities and attacks, Federal News Radio cited a government official as saying.

“The responsibility for cyber always was shared by the State CIO's office and diplomatic security. It goes back to a memo from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who split up operational cyber, which falls under the CIO and is responsible for things like patching, firewalls and making sure operational systems are up to speed,” the official reportedly said. “Diplomatic security is watching for intrusions, doing white-hat activity on the network. So in some ways, the CTS is part of a natural evolution. Diplomatic Security is a large bureau and this is part of a realignment to put resources under one group. It may be part of a larger internal reorganization in Diplomatic Security. But either way, it's great because it gives the CIO one point of contact. We will wait to see if another shoe drops about long-term consolidation of cyber efforts across the department.”

The reshuffling that displaced the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, which was instrumental in establishing the U.S.'s pact with China, was seen as lowering the priority of cybersecurity. “It's taking an issue that's preeminent and putting it inside a backwater within the State Department,” said Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Robert Knake, formerly the director of cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, who established the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues in 2011. “Position to power matters both within the U.S. government and within the international community.”