NSA, Cyber Command leadership split mulled
WASHINGTON — Key senior Obama administration officials have advocated splitting the leadership of the nation's largest spy agency from that of the military's cyberwarfare command as a final White House decision nears, according to individuals briefed on the discussions.
At a White House meeting of senior national security officials last week, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, said he was in favor of ending the policy of having one official in charge of both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, said the individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials appear inclined to install a civilian as director of the NSA for the first time in the agency's 61-year history. Among those said to be potential successors to the director, Gen. Keith Alexander, is his deputy, John “Chris” Inglis.
While officials have not made a final decision on either issue, national security adviser Susan Rice is expected to make a formal recommendation to President Obama soon, said the individuals, who were not authorized to speak for attribution.
“Ultimately, the president will make this decision,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “At levels below the president, the interagency is still discussing the way forward. Given that we are still looking at the question of whether the ⅛leadership⅜ would be split, we are not yet considering preferred candidates.”
The question of whether one director should lead the NSA and Cyber Command — an arrangement some say invests too much power in one individual — has existed since Cyber Command started in 2010. But it has intensified since June, when a series of disclosures based on documents from a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, sparked controversy over the agency's surveillance programs.
Hayden said Alexander's planned departure next spring made this “a natural point” to look at the question. A decision may be announced within the next few weeks, along with recommendations from separate White House internal and external reviews of surveillance policies.