State Department's cyber bureau begins operations

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center disembarks his plane at Paris-Le Bourget Aiport, north of Paris as he arrives for his visit to Paris, on March 8, 2022. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy officially launched Monday at the State Department, with wide latitude to develop policy on diplomatic issues related to technology and the internet.

The announcement comes after years of back-and-forth between Congress and multiple presidential administrations about consolidating how the department handles cyber diplomacy.

The bureau will “address the national security challenges, economic opportunities, and implications for U.S. values associated with cyberspace, digital technologies, and digital policy,” according to a news release.

The bureau eventually will be led by a Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large, the department said, but for now, “Jennifer Bachus, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the CDP bureau.”

Underneath Bachus, three leaders have been named to the bureau’s topic-specific units:

• Michele Markoff is acting deputy assistant secretary for International Cyberspace Security.
• Stephen Anderson is acting deputy assistant secretary for International Information and Communications Policy
• Blake Peterson is serving as acting coordinator for Digital Freedom.

Monday’s rollout comes about six months after Secretary Antony Blinken announced plans for the new bureau, which the department is calling “CDP.” The department floated the idea for the bureau to Congress in 2019 but didn’t try to launch it until the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency in early 2021. Congressional auditors said that attempt was rushed and sloppy. Under Trump, the State Department had restructured a cyber policy office created under President Barack Obama.

The bureau will launch with about 60 staffers, with plans to add about 30 more, according to The Washington Post.

The debut comes as the State Department is one of the federal agencies distributing assistance to Ukraine, leading sanctions efforts with Treasury against Russia and offering rewards for tracking down ransomware attackers.

Creation of the bureau also was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

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Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, diplomacy, State Department
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