Since its inception in 2009, the U.S. Cyber Command has been run by the director of the National Security Agency. The two organizations are intertwined and even share the same space in Maryland. The continuous leaks of NSA documents this year has led some politicians and critics to argue that the two should be separated, but it appears that the Obama administration has rejected this idea.
The dual leadership role, which is now held by Gen. Keith Alexander, has been controversial since the beginning, when Cyber Command was established. The unit is a part of the U.S. Strategic Command and is staffed by military personnel. It works closely with the rest of the military, as well as with the intelligence community, specifically the NSA. Alexander plans to retire from the NSA early next year, and has said that he’d like the dual NSA-Cyber Command role to continue after he’s gone.
Some in the intelligence community–and many in the privacy and security communities–have said that the two jobs should be split, as the current situation gives too much power to one person. However, the White House has decided that it’s better to keep the NSA director as the director of Cyber Command, as well. A White House spokeswoman told the Washington Post today that the two roles are closely aligned and it’s important to keep them together.
“NSA plays a unique role in supporting Cyber Command’s mission, providing critical support for target access and development, including linguists, analysts, cryptanalytic capabilities, and sophisticated technological infrastructure,” Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokeswoman, told the Post. “Without the dual-hat arrangement, elaborate procedures would have to be put in place to ensure that effective coordination continued and avoid creating duplicative capabilities in each organization.”
Cyber Command is responsible for much of the offensive and defensive security operations run by the United States military, and it works closely with intelligence agencies.