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White House National Security Council to cut cyber coordinator role

Posted at 7:43 PM, May 15, 2018

The White House National Security Council is ending the role of cyber coordinator, according to an internal announcement obtained by CNN on Tuesday.

The internal announcement said the elimination of the cyber role, just weeks into the tenure of national security adviser John Bolton, was part of an effort to "streamline authority for National Security Council Senior Directors."

The announcement said the cyber coordinator job would end as Rob Joyce, the latest to hold the post, returned to the National Security Agency.

"With our two Senior Directors for Cybersecurity, cyber coordination is already a core capability," the announcement read. "Eliminating another layer of bureaucracy delivers greater 'decision, activity, secrecy and despatch (sic)' as Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist Number 70."

The elimination of the cyber coordinator job marked the latest of several changes to the National Security Council since President Donald Trump named Bolton his national security adviser.

CNN reported last month Bolton pushed out Tom Bossert as homeland security adviser to make room for his own team, as several other officials left the National Security Council, including deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow and Joyce, who served as Bossert's deputy.

Politico first reported on the elimination of the post.

Asked about the position at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not discussed the decision with Bolton.

"I have not had a conversation with Ambassador Bolton about that particular issue," Nielsen told Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

Nielsen said DHS has "strengthened all of our relationships with the silos" in government that Peters mentioned in his question, and said she is in regular contact with Bolton on cybersecurity, the previous statement notwithstanding.

"Since Ambassador Bolton has come onto the job, he and I speak regularly," she said, describing cybersecurity strategy work between herself and Bolton as "hand in glove."

She added the cybersecurity strategy released by her department on Tuesday was done in "close coordination" with NSC.

During his first year in office, then-President Barack Obama announced he was establishing the role of cybersecurity coordinator and warned at the time the nation needed to bolster its online security efforts.

Mississippi Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, issued a statement responding to the news and accusing Bolton of "wreaking havoc" on the NSC.

"With cyber threats ever-changing and growing more sophisticated by the day, there is no logical reason to eliminate this senior position and reduce the already degraded level of cyber expertise at the White House," the statement read.

Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, of Rhode Island, said Tuesday he feels the decision was the "first major step backward" on cybersecurity by the Trump administration. He added the Trump administration had mostly followed in the footsteps of the Obama administration before this move.

"Bad move, big mistake, and just shows how out of touch and uninformed John Bolton is," Langevin said.