The State Department is responding to international cyber threats — like ransomware, intellectual property theft by Chinese citizens, and Russian election interference — by restructuring to include the creation of two new positions.

A new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy will be led by an unnamed Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large and a new, separate special envoy for critical and emerging technology, officials said, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Both positions will report directly to Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman for at least the first year, the officials said.

The bureaucratic changes, to be announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reflect his view that the U.S. has entered a “fundamentally new era in global affairs” where climate change and emerging technology are key to international cooperation and competition, a senior State Department official said.

The new cyberbureau will comprise three divisions:

  • The first is focused on international cybersecurity issues, such as deterrence, policy development, and negotiations with allies and adversaries, the Journal reported.
  • The second division is dedicated to digital policy, such as promoting trusted telecom systems abroad.
  • The third division focuses on digital freedom, such as protecting human rights online and working with civil society.

The new special envoy for critical and emerging technology will be in charge of coordinating international policy on artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, and other fields, officials said.

Chris Painter, the former top cybersecurity official at the State Department briefed on the forthcoming changes, said the overhaul “went through an exacting process.”

“It’s better to take a long time to do it right rather than to go fast and do it wrong,” Painter said. The changes are “a good step forward,” he added.

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