Sen. Angus King Jr., I-Maine, defended the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s key recommendation to create a Senate-confirmed National Cyber Director before his Senate colleagues on Tuesday, finding commonality with the subcommittee chair on the position.

With a provision to create a Senate-confirmed National Cyber Director in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and a placeholder provision in the Senate’s bill, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, said additional information about the position would be used during the reconciliation process between the two versions of the bill in conference.

“The mission and the structure of the National Cyber Director is almost identical of the principal cyber advisor position that we have created at the Department of Defense,” said Sen. King, a Solarium co-chair and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The difference is a wider scope.”

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He told the subcommittee that he had made a list of over a half dozen Federal agencies with cyber responsibility outside of the Department of Defense.

“The fundamental purpose and structure of the National Cyber Director is to provide a person in the administration with the status and the advisory relationship with the president to oversee this diverse and dispersed authority throughout the Federal government,” he said.

Sen. Rounds expressed his concern that the proposed position would create “a silo” where the execution of cyber authority or responsibilities could be slowed.

“Our proposal is the anti-silo,” Sen. King said. “We’re talking about adding a coordinating function to bring together the expertise throughout the Federal government.”

“We do not propose that the National Cyber Director be in the chain of command for cyber actions,” he said. “It’s Cyber Command, Secretary of Defense, President of the United States. We are not talking about adding a layer in terms of execution of policy.”

Sen. King’s Solarium co-chair Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., agreed. “The intent of this proposal was to build interagency integration and not to add bureaucracy,” he said.

Brigadier General John “Chris” Inglis, U.S. Air Force (ret.), a former deputy director of the National Security Agency and Solarium commissioner, compared the proposed position to the principal cyber advisor at the Department of Defense (DoD). He said the proposed position is “used to affect cohesion,” not be an operational commander.

“I was concerned that we not create any silos,” Sen. Rounds said. “I am very happy to hear all of you indicate the same.”

Sen. Rounds listed a number of positions in the Executive Office of the President that currently require Senate-confirmation, including the U.S. Trade Representative, on which the Solarium recommendation is modeled.

“You’ve done your work on it,” Sen. Rounds said. “If there is any part of it that we were concerned with, it was that we make sure that we allow what working within cyber operations of the DoD to continue to work and it would not create any other silos.”

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said last month the final defense bill might not be passed until November. Last year’s NDAA was not signed into law until December 20.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.