Skip to content

Dem amendment would force Trump to appoint a cyber coordinator

A Democratic senator is looking to add an amendment to annual defense policy legislation to force President Trump to appoint a cybersecurity coordinator at the White House after the administration’s controversial decision to eliminate the role.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is offering an amendment to the Senate’s version of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require Trump to appoint a cybersecurity coordinator within 30 days of the bill becoming law.

The cybersecurity coordinator, a high-level White House position created during the Obama administration, was responsible for coordinating cybersecurity policy across federal departments and agencies. Rob Joyce, an NSA official on detail to the White House, most recently filled the role under Trump, though Joyce elected to return to the NSA in April rather than continue serving in the position.

The National Security Council, led by newly appointed national security adviser John Bolton, revealed in May that the position had been eliminated in order to streamline operations and management across the two senior directors working on cybersecurity. 

The move triggered widespread criticism from Democratic lawmakers and some former officials. At the end of last month, Heinrich and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote to Trump expressing their concern about the decision.

“We write today to express our concern regarding the decision to eliminate the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator position in the National Security Council,” they wrote.

“We believe that the nature of the cyber threats facing our nation, their increasing number, and the difficult policy questions they raise lend themselves to a centralized Administration approach,” they continued. 

Heinrich’s amendment to the NDAA would effectively reverse the White House’s decision, requiring Trump to appoint an official within the Executive Office of the President to develop and coordinator federal governmentwide cyber strategy and policies and oversee the implementation of those policies.

It is unclear whether the amendment will get a vote. A similar Democratic provision offered in the House that would have blocked the administration from eliminating the cybersecurity coordinator role was never voted on when the lower chamber debated and passed its version of the NDAA.

The full Senate will vote Monday evening whether to proceed with debate on the defense policy legislation. Once the bill passes the upper chamber, negotiators from the House and Senate will need to meet to hash out the details of a compromise bill.