Cyber Diplomacy Act Scored by CBO, Negligible Impact on Government Spending

State Department

The Cyber Diplomacy Act, H.R. 739, was scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday and the CBO found it would not have a material impact on government spending.

The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, which would create an Ambassador for Cyberspace in the State Department. The bipartisan bill would establish an Office of International Cyberspace Policy, led by an Ambassador for Cyberspace appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The bill, which was introduced in January of this year, also establishes principles for an international cyberspace policy, including human rights and opposing cyber-enabled theft. It also encourages the President to enter into agreements with other countries that advance these principles.

The State Department told the CBO that the legislation “would not change the current policies and practices of the office and thus would not increase its costs.” The CBO did note that H.R. 739 would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and State Department to create reports for Congress. However, CBO estimates that this would cost less than $1 million over a five-year period and that “such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.”

The bill follows up on similar efforts in the last Congress. A previous version of the bill passed the House in January 2018 and advanced through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June, but did not receive a vote in the full Senate.

Earlier this month the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the Cyber Diplomacy Act, which signaled the overall approval of the legislation by the committee. The bill was largely left clean, which a few technical adjustments. Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, made the largest change– which was still relatively minor–which called for editing of the list of topics that the GAO would investigate for a report it would later present to the committee.

The issue of a cyber bureau within the State Department has gained steam in recent months–a State Department official noted in late February that the department is already preparing to create a cyber bureau.

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