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Washington, D.C. – As the State Department prepares to give the White House recommendations to improve our nation’s cybersecurity, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and the committee’s Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to request an update on cybersecurity strategies and the State Department’s plans for the Office of the Cyber Coordinator, as well as stress the importance of making any report on cyber deterrence available to the public.

In the letter, Royce and Engel write: “As you know, the threats facing the United States and our allies in cyberspace are persistent and growing.  The State Department plays a critical role in promoting an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet by de-escalating cyber tensions with foreign countries through the development of international norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, and deterring malicious actors from carrying out destructive cyber operations.” 

Full text of the letter is available below or here:

November 8, 2017

The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

As you know, the threats facing the United States and our allies in cyberspace are persistent and growing.  The State Department plays a critical role in promoting an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet by de-escalating cyber tensions with foreign countries through the development of international norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, and deterring malicious actors from carrying out destructive cyber operations. 

Presidential Executive Order 13800, issued on May 11, 2017, recognizes your Department’s important contributions to our nation’s cybersecurity by charging you with leading an inter-agency effort to develop recommendations for the President on (1) strategic options for deterring adversaries and better protecting the American people from cyber threats; and (2) an engagement strategy for international cooperation in cybersecurity. 

It is our understanding that your recommendations will soon be transmitted to the White House. Accordingly, we look forward to an update from the appropriate Administration officials on these topics as soon as possible.  We also look forward to an update on the Department’s cyber functions generally, including changes announced to the Office of the Cyber Coordinator in your August 28, 2017 letter to Congress on the special envoys and related positions.      

Finally, we note that the 2011 International Strategy for Cyberspace was released publicly and urge that your reports also be made available to the public.  We are concerned that making a report on cyber deterrence entirely classified would undermine its purpose.  Without revealing our sources or methods, or those of our allies, it is important for our adversaries to know that the United States is prepared to take strong and decisive actions against malicious cyber behavior.  

We appreciate your attention to this important issue and look forward to your response.     

Sincerely,

EDWARD R. ROYCE
Chairman

ELIOT L. ENGEL
Ranking Member