The State Department is in the planning phase to create a cyber bureau within the department, a State Department official noted during a panel Q&A session on Thursday.
Ellen McCarthy, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the process of creating a cyber bureau to analyze how the growth of cyberattacks overlaps with foreign policy.
“The Secretary is actually creating a cyber bureau,” said McCarthy. “We’re working very closely with our partners across the IC…and it’s going to look at all aspects of cyber across the State Department.”
The idea of a cyber bureau at the State Department is not a new one. In January, House members introduced a bill to create an Office on International Cyberspace Policy, led by an ambassador for cyberspace.
In her main comments, McCarthy described the role of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or InR, and how it supports the State Department – and how it’s looking to improve.
“We really are the model all-source intelligence agency. We’re very small, we have under 300 people, but the DNI [Director of National Intelligence] came and spoke at a town hall, and he really highlighted how incredibly productive we are with such few people,” she said.
The biggest imperative driving McCarthy is the need to deliver information faster to meet the needs of her bureau’s biggest client–Secretary Pompeo.
“He really wants intel at the speed of news. InR can provide rich, critical analysis, but we don’t provide it at the speed of news. I met with him, and I told him this was going to be quite the challenge, and he said, ‘Game on.’ So now I’ve got to try and take InR to the point where we are giving him information before he asks for it.”
McCarthy noted that while she wants to keep supporting the good work of the department, she also wants to grow the department’s technical capabilities. She noted that the infrastructure is currently on the older side, but she saw the opportunity the use the bureau as a test bed for the intelligence community.
“I really need to reshape the workforce, but not in a way that breaks what they are. I don’t want to break something that is not broken,” she said. Instead, she described her desire to sit analysts down with technologists and figure out what problems the analyst wants to solve.
While knowledgeable on the world of intelligence, McCarthy acknowledged that she was unsure of the solutions that would best fit her bureau. She invited industry attendees to offer their ideas that can support a stronger intelligence service, without rethinking the whole process.
“It’s an amazing fun playground for the private sector, so I hope you pick up on that,” she quipped.