Department Press Briefing – October 6, 2022


2:13 p.m. EDT

MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody. And sorry that we are running just a smidge tardy.

As I promised, we have a special guest with us today. Today it is my pleasure to introduce Ambassador-at-Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy Nate Fick, who started just a couple weeks ago and had his swearing-in ceremony earlier this week, on October 4th, just in time to kick off Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Last year and over the course of his tenure as Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken has laid out an ambitious modernization agenda to help the State Department lead in the policy areas that will define the coming decades. Cyberspace and digital policy are at the top of that list, and this is the arrival of our first-ever ambassador-at-large to lead our new Cyberspace and Digital Policy Bureau. And this is a key milestone in delivering on the Secretary’s agenda.

Ambassador Fick was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, has an impressive and impeccable record of leadership in both the public and private sector, and is an expert on many issue areas in the cyberspace and digital policy arenas.

I am pleased to have him here. He’s going to have some remarks for you, and then we’ll take a few questions, before he has to continue on with some meetings throughout the day. So Ambassador Fick, please. The floor is yours.

AMBASSADOR FICK: Thank you. Hi, everybody. I don’t know if you keep it like this in here to keep you brief or keep me brief, but it may have that effect. I hope we all have our flu shots. (Laughter.)

My name’s Nate Fick. I’m the new ambassador-at-large leading the Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy. And as you heard, it is – this is my first week in the building. So I will play the new guy card shamelessly.

The – I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity to lead State’s newest bureau, to lead an organization focused on integrating and elevating the United States approach to technology diplomacy with our partners and allies, and to uphold a vision for how we can all use technology to enrich our lives and uphold democratic values.

I bring to this some personal, visceral convictions. I was a Marine earlier in my career, after college. I served in Afghanistan right after 9/11 and in Iraq in 2003 and witnessed firsthand the costs when diplomacy fails. And so I have, again, a strong visceral conviction in the intrinsic value of diplomacy. I believe diplomacy should be our tool of first resort in all things. And cyber and digital policy is the next frontier of diplomacy. It’s not a silo; it’s not a set of issues limited to any one bureau; this is a substrate that cuts across every aspect of our foreign policy.

And Secretary Blinken and Deputy Secretary Sherman have made clear that that’s the case, that cyber and digital policy isn’t the work of only one bureau, and we need to make an understanding of digital policies a core piece of the department’s work and a core tool in the kits of our diplomats at every level.

So to succeed, we need to communicate what we’re going to do in the public, and so I am glad to have this opportunity to begin to talk with all of you on my fourth day here. So I look forward to finding new ways to highlight how we’re advancing this mission, and I’ll give you just one example from my first 10 days of how cyber and digital issues are already shaping the work of U.S. diplomacy. I was sworn in, got a passport, and got on a plane to Bucharest on three successive days in order to work with our U.S. delegation there in the days running up to the election last week for the secretary generalship of the International Telecommunication Union.

The ITU is 157-year-old organization that is responsible for settings standards that govern so many aspects of telecom, including things like 5G and fiber optic networks. And we had a very strong American citizen as candidate for secretary-general, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, and she won a landslide victory over her Russian opponent: 139 votes to 25, which I think gives her – we think gives her a strong mandate now to embark on her four-year term as secretary-general. And I know that she’s going to do a phenomenal job not only because she has the managerial and leadership experience inside the ITU, but also because of her commitment to connecting the unconnected, to closing digital divides, and advancing the principle of an open, interoperable, secure, reliable internet for people all around the world.

So there’s a lot to do, obviously, from countering malicious cyber activity and building resilience to promoting investments in secure telecom infrastructure and making sure that access to the internet is universally available in a way that advances human rights.

So I’m honored to work with a great team of experienced diplomats in the bureau. I look forward to building the relationships with my interagency partners. I look forward to working with our…

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Department Press Briefing – October 6, 2022