As part of National Security Adviser John Bolton's full overhaul of the National Security Council, he's "leading the push to abolish the role of special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator," the top White House cybersecurity job, Politico reports, citing one current and two former U.S. officials. One of the former officials said there's a "60-40" chance the White House eliminates the job, potentially leaving the U.S. government rudderless heading into elections in which Russia is widely expected to meddle.
When it comes to cybersecurity, a second former official told Politico, Bolton's "not interested in it. He doesn't see the point in it. ... There's a serious concern on the [NSC] right now, particularly the [cyber team], of what the fate of their directorate is moving forward," and morale "is definitely low." The current cybersecurity coordinator, Rob Joyce, is returning to the National Security Agency, "in part because of frustration with how Bolton's team approaches cyber policy," Politico reports. "When Bolton arrived, he forced out homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, a cyber expert who supervised Joyce's team."
NSC spokesman Robert Palladino told Politico that "cyber is a key priority for the Trump administration." And if the coordinator position is eliminated, responsibility could shift to Bolton's deputy, Mira Ricardel, who reportedly supports eliminating the position, or Josh Steinman, a Michael Flynn protégé who reportedly has scant cybersecurity experience and is disliked by career staffers. Scrapping the job would also send a message to other countries "that the U.S. is taking the gas pedal off of cybersecurity as a key national security issue," warned former NSC cyber policy director Megan Stifel.
"The Obama administration was slow and ineffective in its response to Russian election interference in 2016," The Washington Post says in an editorial "But it is now on President Trump and his team to prepare for a new round of Kremlin cyberattacks — and this White House, too, is falling short."