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State Department Official Who Lobbied Against Huawei to Resign

Alyza Sebenius

(Bloomberg) -- The State Department’s top cyber policy official, who has spent the last few years warning U.S. allies about the dangers of relying on companies like China’s Huawei Technologies Co. to build 5G networks, is resigning to work on policy issues on behalf of technology companies.

Rob Strayer has served as the deputy assistant secretary for cyber and international communications and information policy since he was appointed in September 2017. In that post, he’s been the U.S. diplomatic lead on issues ranging from cyber-attacks and 5G security to emerging technologies and privacy policy. His resignation will take effect later this month.

Strayer is the latest in a series of cybersecurity officials to leave the Trump administration.

He will move to the Information Technology Industry Council, a technology trade association -- whose members include Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc.’s Google , Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. -- where he will serve as executive vice president of policy.

At the State Department, Strayer led a high-profile diplomatic campaign that sought to convince allies to adopt security standards for their 5G networks that excluded Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE Corp.; U.S. officials have claimed both companies pose a national security risk. He has also led diplomacy surrounding a U.S. initiative to call out China’s cyber-enabled intellectual property theft that has included publicly blaming the Chinese and indicting the hackers.

His departure comes amid rising tension with China and a push by the U.S. to ban Chinese apps including TikTok from American computers and phones. He also leaves three months before the U.S. election -- the first presidential contest since Russia waged a hacking and disinformation campaign to influence the 2016 contest. “We have been clear with countries that might seek to interfere in the 2020 elections that any attempts to do so would be unacceptable and met with consequences,” Strayer said in an interview.

Other cybersecurity officials that were key to the U.S. effort to defend against foreign influence in elections announced they were leaving their posts in December. Jeanette Manfra, who served as the assistant director for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, stepped down, as did Amy Hess, who served as the executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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