NSA chief may lose US Cyber Command role

Separating the two positions could help keep abuses of power in check, as the NSA works to win back the public's trust.

Desiree DeNunzio Editor
Desiree DeNunzio is the gift guide editor for CNET's Commerce team. When she's not writing and editing, she's either hiking through the redwoods or curled up with a good book and a lazy dog.
Expertise Desiree has been a writer and editor for the past two decades, covering everything from top-selling Amazon deals to apparel, pets and home goods. Credentials
  • Desiree's previous work has appeared in various print and online publications including Search Engine Land, PCWorld, Wired magazine and PBS MediaShift.
Desiree DeNunzio
"I could not be more proud of the men and women at NSA," Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command told Congress today.
Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command. Getty Images

Folks in the Pentagon appear to be rethinking the idea that one person should be in charge of both the NSA and the United States' cyberoperations.

Top military officials are considering separating the role of National Security Agency director and the head of Cyber Command, a former high-ranking administration official on Monday told The Hill.

Gen. Keith Alexander was tapped to become head of America's national spying agency in 2005, and took up the additional role of the head of Cyber Command five years later. The mission of Cyber Command is essentially to synchronize the Defense Department's various networks and cyberspace operations to better defend them against the onslaught of cyberattacks.

Alexander, and his civilian deputy, John "Chris" Inglis, are expected to resign from their positions in the coming months. Alexander is pushing to keep the two positions united and believes that splitting them up would result in two agencies battling over resources and command decisions, according to The Hill.

But splitting the two agencies would inevitably help keep abuses of power in check, something that the NSA desperately needs as it battles to rebuild the public's trust.

Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA and CIA, last month speculated in an interview with The Washington Post that it would no longer be possible to appoint the same person to run both agencies. He pointed to intense scrutiny surrounding the NSA's surveillance activities and the overlapping functions of the NSA and Cyber Command.