NSA to Retain Military Leadership

The move rejects an upcoming report that suggests putting the agency under civilian control.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a conference at the Ronald Reagan Building, October 30,2013 in Washington, DC. General Alexander spoke about Cybersecurity at a conference hosted by Bloomberg Government.  
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Dec. 13, 2013, 9:54 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion guar­an­teed that the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency will con­tin­ue to be led by a mil­it­ary of­fi­cial, de­fy­ing a grow­ing push to put the spy agency un­der the pur­view of a ci­vil­ian.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion guar­an­teed on­go­ing mil­it­ary su­per­vi­sion when it de­cided the NSA dir­ect­or will con­tin­ue to also lead Cy­ber Com­mand, which must be over­seen by a mil­it­ary of­ficer.

The de­cision, an­nounced Fri­day by White House’s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil spokes­wo­man Caitlin Hay­den, comes less than a day after of­fi­cials leaked news that a highly an­ti­cip­ated re­port would sug­gest a ci­vil­ian take over the NSA’s top spot. The re­port by the Re­view Group on In­tel­li­gence and Com­mu­nic­a­tions Tech­no­logy is ex­pec­ted to be form­ally sub­mit­ted to the White House by Sunday.

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing in the op­pos­ite dir­ec­tion.

“Fol­low­ing a thor­ough in­ter­agency re­view, the Ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­cided that keep­ing the po­s­i­tions of NSA Dir­ect­or and Cy­ber Com­mand Com­mand­er to­geth­er as one, dual-hat­ted po­s­i­tion is the most ef­fect­ive ap­proach to ac­com­plish­ing both agen­cies’ mis­sions,” Hay­den said.

There has been a grow­ing push for the NSA to be led by a ci­vil­ian, out of con­cerns that hav­ing one per­son with a dual role un­ne­ces­sar­ily con­cen­trated too much power. Keith Al­ex­an­der, a four-star gen­er­al who cur­rently holds both po­s­i­tions, is ex­pec­ted to step down this spring.

Hay­den noted that Al­ex­an­der’s re­tire­ment provided the ad­min­is­tra­tion with a “nat­ur­al time” to re­view the ex­ist­ing ar­range­ment. Al­ex­an­der has re­peatedly pushed for the roles to re­main linked after his de­par­ture.

“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,” Hay­den ad­ded.

Pres­id­ent Obama com­mis­sioned the re­view pan­el in Au­gust amid grow­ing con­cern about the agency’s in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing tac­tics. The NSA has been pil­lor­ied this year as leaked doc­u­ments from former con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden have shed light on the agency’s in­tern­al work­ings.

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