Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said at a May 13 hearing that he is pushing to include in National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legislation a requirement for a National Cyber Director.
The recommendation to create a Senate-confirmed National Cyber Director is a key conclusion of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which offered a long list of recommendations to Congress in order to improve how the U.S. defends against cyber threats.
The proposed National Cyber Director position was the first of the Solarium recommendations discussed by Sen. Johnson at a committee hearing on the report, which featured the commission’s co-chairs Sen. Angus King, Jr., I-Maine, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.
“The first recommendation I want to talk about that, quite honestly we’re working hard on getting included in the National Defense Authorization Act, so it can become law, is the need to put somebody in charge, a National Cyber Director,” Sen. Johnson said. Putting someone in charge, the senator noted, was also the number one recommendation from a recent panel on 5G, and the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.
“This is an important recommendation that deserves careful consideration,” said Sen. Johnson, in his written opening statement. “A National Cyber Director could set a president up for success and ensure that his or her policies are being implemented across the government.” He added, “We also need to find consensus on the appropriate scope of authorities and powers a National Cyber Director would need to be successful.”
Sen. Johnson’s written opening statement listed several open questions about the position, including “how a National Cyber Director would be involved in defensive cyber operations; combating the theft of intellectual property; and reviewing budgets.” During the May 13 hearing, Sen. Johnson said he signed onto a letter with Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., with questions about the position to Sen. King and the Solarium commission.
“I think the questions are good ones,” said Sen. King during the hearing, adding he talked with Sen. Rounds about the topic last week. “We’re going to apply ourselves to answering those questions and try and flesh out some of the details of how this new office would work, what the authorities would be, and how it would fit in with other structure in the federal government,” Sen. King said.