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Alexander Will Be Last Intel Officer To Head NSA, Hayden Says

Posted by Carlo Munoz on


CORRECTION Washington: Gen. Keith Alexander will likely be the last military intelligence officer to lead the National Security Agency, former CIA director Mike Hayden said today.

“Keith Alexander [will be] the last intelligence officer to be the director of the National Security Agency,” was the hypothesis offered by Hayden during a intelligence and national security symposium sponsored by the Center For Strategic and International Studies today.

“They will fill the position, based on the combatant command needs of the four-star cyber command commander, and the [NSA director] position will be the additional duties assigned. And that has long term meaning,” the former CIA chief added.

In other words, whoever DoD chooses to fill the NSA slot — be it a general officer with a intelligence background or not — that decision will be determined by what the department needs from NSA, to support cyber command rather than NSA.

NSA, according to Hayden, is primarily responsible for providing intelligence and analysis for DoD’s combatant commands and national customers. On the other hand, Cyber Command will be the preeminent cyberwarfare arm for the entire Defense Department, similar to Special Operations Command.

Alexander was already the top military officer at NSA when he was nominated to receive his fourth star and head up Cyber Command last year. Despite the fact that the NSA chief has always been a three-star general, DoD and the White House opted to give Alexander both jobs.

Alexander’s nomination was confirmed by the Senate last May.

In July, DoD released its long-awaited cyberwarfare strategy which provides the blueprint for how the Pentagon will defend against potential national security threats in cyberspace.

Potential changes within NSA leadership, coupled with the demands of cyber command will create some tension within military and intelligence circles, according to Hayden.
But since DoD cannot replicate the “cyber firepower” in place at NSA in a separate place like cyber command, having NSA and cyber command under one commander makes sense, Hayden said.

While questions remain about NSA’s future leadership, Hayden also noted that Alexander’s eventual successor will have to try and find a balance between the agency’s military duties and responsibilities to the intelligence community.

Hayden, who held the top jobs at NSA and CIA, said NSA has “a dual personality” because of its responsibilities to both DOD and the intel community. But the military side of NSA has begun to trend more toward the military side, since the country has been at war for the past decade, he said.

“The trick . . . is as we come out of constant combat — whenever that is — we do not assume that which has developed is normal, and that we allow [NSA] to swing back toward its national identity.


*The corrected story above has been changed to accurately reflect the comments and opinions of former CIA director Michael Hayden. The original piece that ran last week is below. We apologize for the error.

NSA, CYBERCOM Leadership Should Be Split, Hayden Says

Washington: Gen. Keith Alexander should give up his role as head of the National Security Agency to focus more on his job as chief of Cyber Command, former CIA director Mike Hayden said today.

Alexander was already the top military officer at NSA when he was nominated to receive his fourth star and head up Cyber Command last year. Despite the fact that the NSA chief has always been a three-star general, DoD and the White House opted to give Alexander both jobs.

Alexander’s nomination was confirmed by the Senate last May.
In July, DoD released its long-awaited cyberwarfare strategy which provides the blueprint for how the Pentagon will defend against potential national security threats in cyberspace.

But as the role of cyber in military and intelligence operations grows, the head of Cyber Command will likely have to give up the NSA job to focus on that mission, Hayden said during a intelligence and national security symposium sponsored by the Center For Strategic and International Studies today.

Hayden, who held the top job at CIA from 2006 to 2009, added that splitting up command of both organizations would also ensure that NSA does not become too focused on cyber operations and lose sight of its main mission of signals and imagery analysis.

Breaking up command of NSA and Cyber Command would also make both organizations more responsive, since each caters to different areas of the military and intelligence communities, Hayden added.

NSA, according to Hayden, is primarily responsible for providing intelligence and analysis for DoD’s combatant commands. It is, by and large, an intelligence “force provider” for the military, he said.

On the other hand, Cyber Command will be the preeminent cyberwarfare arm for the entire Defense Department, similar to Special Operations Command.
Putting such a wide range of responsibilities under one commander simply does not make sense and will likely not continue, Hayden argued.

That said, the respective heads of both organizations must maintain close ties with each other, as well as with other agencies in the intelligence community and the office of the director for national intelligence, he added.

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