Nate Fick, President Biden’s nominee to serve as the ambassador at large to lead the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy (CDP), laid out his initial priorities for the newly established bureau during an August 3 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination.
If confirmed to the position by the full Senate, Fick said the “three immediate top priorities” include establishing the new bureau’s culture, asserting the State Department’s role in cyberspace and digital policy, and then tackling a host of global policy challenges.
The State Department officially launched the long-awaited CDP in April, and President Biden nominated Fick in June. If confirmed, Fick will oversee the CDP’s three policy units: International Cyberspace Security, International Information and Communications Policy, and Digital Freedom.
“Because the bureau is new, the first and innermost priority is building the team and establishing a culture – both in the bureau and in the department – where a fluency and expertise in digital technologies is seen as important to the careers and futures of career Foreign Service Officers and members of the civil service,” Fick told lawmakers.
As for his second and third priorities, Fick hopes the bureau can assert its role in cyberspace and then address all of the related global policy challenges. In Fick’s view, “the wolf closest to the door” is the Russian invasion of Ukraine “and the threats and opportunities it provides in the digital space for us.”
In light of Fick’s goals, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, reminded him that “Congress is not very good at org charts” and asked him how he would avoid overlap with other departments and cyber leaders, such as the National Cyber Director.
Fick assured the senator that he has “a heightened sense of concern” regarding that issue and believes the new role “actually fills a gap that has existed in our government.”
“I believe that diplomacy should be our tool of first resort. I believe in the intrinsic value of diplomacy. So, I think this role actually does fill an important gap in the cyber and tech responsibilities across the government,” Fick said.
“I have known Director Inglis, Anne Neuberger, and Jen Easterly in different capacities for more than a decade. I have full confidence that we can carve out the right swim lanes,” he added. “I hope that, if confirmed, as the inaugural ambassador leading this office, we could create clear lines of responsibility that outlive any individual.”