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GAO: State Dept Should Use Data, Evidence to Back Proposal to Establish Cyber Bureau

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A congressional report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends that the State Department use evidence and data to support its proposed plan to set up the bureau of cyberspace security and emerging technologies (CSET) in order to enable the new office to establish priorities and allocate resources to meet its goals. 

In June 2019, the State Department informed Congress of its plan to establish the new CSET bureau that would operate with a budget of $20.8 million and 80 employees and report to the undersecretary for arms control and international security, GAO said in a report released Thursday.

In the congressional notification, the department said the proposed bureau will help enhance coordination with other agencies working on issues related to national security, align emerging technology and cyber space security issues with international security initiatives and advance long-term capacity within the department.

GAO made the recommendation based on several findings, including the lack of analyses supporting the additional details outlined in the 2019 congressional notification in an action memo and briefing slides. GAO said the State Department commented on the report.

“While State disagreed with our characterization of its use of data and evidence to develop its proposal for CSET, it agreed that reviewing such information to evaluate program effectiveness can be useful. State commented that it provided us with what it determined to be appropriate material on its decision to establish CSET and our report noted only the potential coordination challenges resulting from separating cyber and digital policy,” the GAO report reads.

According to the report, the department announced on Jan. 7, 2021, that the secretary of state gave the green light to the CSET establishment and directed the agency to advance the formation of the new bureau. To date, the department has not established the bureau.