State Department Launches Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy

Colin Thierry
Colin Thierry Writer
Colin Thierry Colin Thierry Writer

The State Department’s new cybersecurity bureau officially launched on Monday in an effort to make digital rights issues an integral part of US foreign policy. This move comes at a time when Russia and China are increasingly trying to put their own authoritarian stamp on the internet.

The new bureau is aimed at putting more diplomatic personnel and expertise toward State Department priorities, including shaping norms of responsible government behavior in cyberspace and helping US allies to strengthen their own cybersecurity programs.

“As what’s happening in Ukraine and Russia illustrates, we’re in a contest over the rules, infrastructure, and standards that will define our digital future,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in prepared remarks describing the role of the new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy.

“Democracies must answer together the question of whether universal rights and democratic values will be at the center of our digital lives — and whether digital technologies deliver real benefits in people’s lives.”

Cybersecurity issues have only become more pressing for the US government over the past few years. In December, the iPhones of around a dozen State Department employees serving in Africa were hacked with spyware developed by Israeli technology firm NSO Group. The Biden administration has since pledged to crack down on the use of this spyware, saying it has been used to violate human rights around the world.

The new cyberbureau adds more personnel across multiple cyber-related issues, like digital freedom and cybersecurity technologies, than what existed under previous cybersecurity offices at the State Department. State Department officials said on Monday that they expect to have 100 personnel staffing the bureau by the end of the year.

“It’s an evolution of the centrality of these issues for foreign policy to move from an office that was small into an institutionalized bureau within the department,” a State Department official told reporters.

Jennifer Bachus, a career diplomat, will lead the bureau on an interim basis until the Biden administration nominates a Senate-confirmed “ambassador-at-large” to take the job, according to the State Department.

“I will work hard to make sure the bureau is appropriately structured and staffed for its mission: to elevate cyber and digital diplomacy globally and to prioritize this work here in Washington and at our embassies and consulates,” Bachus said.

For at least the first year of its existence, the bureau will report directly to the deputy Secretary of State. “We want to make sure that it has priority attention from the senior-most officials in this building,” a State Department spokesperson said.

About the Author

About the Author

Colin Thierry is a former cybersecurity researcher and journalist for SafetyDetectives who has written a wide variety of content for the web over the past 2 years. In his free time, he enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, watching sports, and playing video games.

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