President Donald Trump eliminated the job of the nation's cybersecurity czar on Tuesday, and Democratic lawmakers immediately introduced legislation to restore it.
Trump signed an executive order rearranging the federal information technology infrastructure that includes no mention of the White House cybersecurity coordinator or of a replacement for Rob Joyce, who said last month that he is leaving the position to return to the National Security Agency, where he previously directed cyber-defense programs.
"Today's actions continue an effort to empower National Security Council senior directors," the National Security Council said in a statement, according to Reuters. "Streamlining management will improve efficiency, reduce bureaucracy and increase accountability."
Politico first reported the elimination of the job on Tuesday. The White House and the National Security Council didn't immediately reply to requests for comment.
John Bolton, Trump's new national security adviser, has widely been reported to have sought to eliminate the job as part of a top-to-bottom reorganization of the National Security Council. Joyce and his predecessors reported to the president; the senior NSC directors report to Bolton.
Top Democrats on Capitol Hill reacted harshly to the decision. In a statement, Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized Bolton for "already wreaking havoc on the National Security Council.
"With cyber threats ever-changing and growing more sophisticated by the day, there is no logical reason to eliminate this senior position and reduce the already degraded level of cyber expertise at the White House," Thompson said.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday: "We should be investing in our nation's cyber defense, not rolling it back."
"We also need to articulate a clear cyber doctrine. I don't see how getting rid of the top cyber official in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats," Warner said on Twitter.
Two Democratic House members, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, a co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and Ted Lieu of California, a member of the Judiciary subcommittee on homeland security, quickly introduced a bill to restore the position, giving it extra authority as head of a National Office for Cyberspace, subject to Senate confirmation.
In a statement, Langevin and Lieu called Trump's decision "an enormous step backwards to deemphasize the importance of this growing domain within the White House."
Lieu said in a statement: "The decision to eliminate the top White House cyber policy role is outrageous, especially given that we're facing more hostile threats from foreign adversaries than ever before."
Similarly, Chris Painter, the State Department's coordinator of cyber issues during the administration of President Barack Obama — who created the White House position in 2009 — called Trump's move "a tragedy."
"Structure isn't everything but structure speaks to priority and ability to drive decisions and coordinate oft disparate views," Painter said on Twitter. "Every study, commission or other review suggested higher not lower placement."
The president's decision comes as a special counsel, Robert Mueller, is investigating whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller signaled early this year that computer crimes could be a focus of his investigation when he appointed Ryan Dickey, a former Justice Department computer crime specialist, as a member of his team.