“NSA Director Mike Rogers Could Be Removed in Restructuring” – TTG


“President Obama is considering a recommendation by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to separate the commands of theNational Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command that could lead to the removal of Admiral Mike Rogers who heads both commands. Rogers' potential removal as the head of the National Security Agency was first reported by the Washington Post.

The White House, the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the reports. According to a U.S. official, in September Carter and Clapper recommended to Obama a split between the commands of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command that would result in the removal of Admiral Mike Rogers as the head of both commands.

The NSA is responsible for collecting international signals intelligence. U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) is responsible for the defense of military computer networks, but can also conduct offensive cyber operations, as it has done recently against ISIS' cyber networks.

If the recommendation to split the commands is approved it could result in separate individuals respectively heading the NSA and Cyber Command. Rogers assumed leadership of both commands in April, 2014, a term that would likely end next April.”  (ABC News)


The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal articles on this story focus on the politics of the situation. The politics are real and are a serious complication in what could be a major restructuring of our DOD. In other words, the timing is lousy.

 However, I don’t believe the political contraversy is the crux of the issue. In my opinion this proposed separation of the intelligence and operational functions at NSA is long overdue. There were calls for splitting the NSA long before the establishment of CYBERCOM. The NSA mission of signals intelligence collection is diametrically opposed to its mission of securing our nation’s signals communications and information. The emphasis has always been towards the collection mission and the network defense mission has suffered. Thus we end up with the OPM hack and myriad others. We are digitally defenseless.

On top of this dysfunctional mess, we added CYBERCOM, also charged with defending our networks and attacking those of our enemies. This wasn’t always so. In the beginning, SPACECOM was given the mission of defending the GIG, the DOD global information grid. SPACECOM begat JTF-CND (Joint Task Force – Computer Network Defense). It was small, focused and, in my opinion, quite effective. It later moved from SPACECOM to STRATCOM and endured two more name changes. Eventually another element was established under STRATCOM to address the network attack mission. Both elements were then subsumed into CYBERCOM and the DIRNSA was dual hatted. Too damned much in one organization.

If I was in charge, I’d make the NSA a purely intelligence collection and analysis organization and leave it under the DOD with a military commander/director. I would put the entire defensive mission of both the current NSA and CYBERCOM under NORTHCOM, the unified command charged with homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation. CYBERCOM would be charged with offensive cyber operations such as countering the communications and online presence of IS. NSA/CYBERCOM seems to be screwing the pooch on this one. 

I’m sure there are holes in this plan, but I bet it would be a damned sight better than what we have now.


NSA Director Mike Rogers Could Be Removed in Restructuring (ABC News) 

Pentagon and intelligence community chiefs have urged Obama to remove the head of the NSA (Washington Post)

Breaking Up the NSA (Bruce Schneier)


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41 Responses to “NSA Director Mike Rogers Could Be Removed in Restructuring” – TTG

  1. Haralambos says:

    Thank you for this. I am amazed at the alphabet soup of acronyms to sort through in the various scenarios. This is not a criticism of you, but I take it as an indictment of a government that has evolved away from citizens’ comprehension of how our government functions, who has input, and who has access to the various organs.

  2. Haralambos,
    The alphabet soup of acronyms is shorthand for what has grown into a “Rube Goldberg” contraption. There is another dual hat arrangement that came into being while I was still at DIA. In 2005 the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JFCC-ISR) was established. Although subordinate to the STRATCOM Commander, it is located at DIA in Washington and is commanded by the DIA Director under a “dual hat” arrangement. In all my time there and to this day, I do not understand it. This is how STRATCOM describes it.
    “JFCC-ISR was established in March 2005 as a component of USSTRATCOM and per direction from SECDEF and Commander, USSTRATCOM serves as the DoD ISR Joint Functional Manager. In August 2007, SECDEF directed JFCC-ISR integrate its functions into the Defense Intelligence Operation Coordination Center (DIOCC) to synchronize cross-Combatant Command ISR plans and develop strategies integrating all national (IC), theater (DoD), and allied ISR capabilities to satisfy combatant command intelligence needs.”
    It created around 100 positions for careerists to be promoted into, but I still don’t understand its function beyond that.

  3. Jack says:

    TTG, Sir
    Would you know the back story behind why Carter and Clapper want Rogers out?
    I am not informed enough to have an opinion of how these agencies should be restructured. However, if these leviathan bureaucracies can be broken up and reduced in size it will be good in my book.
    Also, whats your opinion of Mattis as possible SecDef?

  4. TV says:

    My guess is that all these reorganizations are done primarily to enlarge rice bowls and advance careers.
    Again, more evidence of the gross incompetence of the high level decision makers.

  5. DWhite says:

    Jesus, and people complain about teachers unions!

  6. Jack,
    From what I read, this was supposed to happen on 1 October this year, well before the election. Just guessing, but the security breaches associated with the Tailors Access Office (TAO) and the lack of progress in the cyber war on IS probably had something to do with it. The FBI was shocked at the lack of security at TAO. Beyond that, I wouldn’t trust anything Clapper would say about it.
    Mattis seems a good choice. Marines from private to colonel loved him. He’s the epitome of an officer and a gentleman, well read and honorable. If he’s the final choice for SecDef, this is the best thing Trump has done so far.

  7. TV said: “all these reorganizations are done primarily to enlarge rice bowls and advance careers”
    I think you’re spot on with that observation. I arrived at DIA due to a major reorganization largely pushed by Colonel Lang. That was done for good reasons which improved DOD intelligence capabilities. Once there, I went through another reorganization, a revitalization and a transformation. I figured the next one was going to called the transmogrification. The biggest result of these changes was the increase in staff offices and positions. The field never benefited.

  8. Found a Baltimore Sun article saying the NSA was reorganizing itself along the lines taken by the CIA, consolidating everything under a directorate of operations, at the beginning of the year. At the same time, Obama was briefed on the idea to separate the offensive and defensive functions of NSA. It doesn’t look like this was a spur of the moment plan.

  9. steve says:

    Agree with Mattis. Any thoughts on Pompeo?

  10. Laura says:

    Thank you for clarifying this…I had no good way to understand or analyze this before.

  11. Steve,
    I do not see Pompeo possessing any knowledge or skills that would recommend him for the position of CIA Director, nor do I see any personality traits that would make him suitable. Seems like another partisan political hack.

  12. turcopolier says:

    Pompaio looks like a flaming ass to me at this point. Flynn seems undereducated but, who knows? The Marine man seems a good choice for SECDEF. I would like to see Rhee as secretary of education. At this point Romney seems the best of a bad lot for Sec State. Priebus? Woof! Bannon? A sheep in wolf’s clothing. Sessions? A gentleman but not as fine as Thad Cochran was. I liked the baby grand piano and Persian carpets in Cocnran’s office. My wife says that the reason the Mississippi lawyers invited me on a pig hunt was to see if I would run. I told them that I would be glad to stand by them at the moment of crisis but would not kill. The Bourbon was good. pl

  13. Bob says:

    TTG: Concur with your recommended reorganization. Need to reduce GO 4-star and 3-star billets when possible. I think NORTHCOM needs clarity in its mission and responsibilities to assist all the civilian agencies in doing their jobs.
    PL: My observation is that Gen (Ret) Mattis has common sense and the courage to speak truth to power. He did so on Syria.

  14. LeaNder says:

    Thanks for this, TTG,
    My own rather arbitrary choice, or what remained on my head after reading the WP article, when it was first posted yesterday was this:
    At the same time, Rogers has not impressed Carter with his handling of U.S. Cyber Command’s cyberoffensive against the Islamic State.
    I by now realize that you certainly know a lot more about this stuff then me. Not least since I am female, ask Babak. But from my own nitwit perspective on matters, I wondered about this:
    TTG: In my opinion this proposed separation of the intelligence and operational functions at NSA is long overdue.
    Again, after I read the article I wondered if you can separate defense and offense on a purely operational/technical/information flow IT level. Putting the “good white heads” on one side and the more “murky/evil black ones” on the other? I would imagine that a good information flow between those camps could indeed be rather beneficial. On a purely theoretical level from my own nitwit perspective, that is.

  15. Larry Kart says:

    Michelle Rhee (of “Erase to the Top”) as Education Secretary? Why not Willie Sutton or Bernie Madoff as Secretary of the Treasury?

  16. turcopolier says:

    Larry Kart
    What are you accusing Michele Rhee of? The Department of Education did not find that she had falsified test results. The teacher’s union in DC were relentless in their attacks on her because of her efforts to get rid of ineffective teachers. pl

  17. LeaNder,
    The line between offensive operations and intelligence is blurred in the cyber realm. That is why they have been intermingled at NSA/CYBERCOM. Although the coordination between the two will be near seamless, I’d still rather see a separation between them. The NSA as a pure intelligence organization should be providing an objective truth and unbiased assessment that is then used by National Command Authorities toshape policy and an offensive-minded CYBERCOM to conduct its operations.
    The offense and defense in the cyber world are diametrically opposed to each other. In practice the defense always takes a back seat to the offensive. James laid this out well in his comment. It’s a matter of command emphasis.

  18. J says:

    Looks like incoming POTUS Trump may place Adm. Rogers in Clapper’s DNI position.
    Regarding Pompaio, Pompaio has stated that he would kill Snowden, and appears that Pompaio is also a cheerleader for torture-your-way-to-intelligence-extraction.

  19. turcopolier says:

    In regard to Pompaio I saw a photo of him as a captain; fat, long hair, uniform poorly assembled (brass). Thus far I am not impressed. pl

  20. Larry Kart says:

    Among other things, overseeing a educational system (in Washington, D.C.) in which significant tampering with the results of student tests occurred (i.e. alterations of incorrect test answers to correct ones — tampering that boosted Rhee’s claims that test scores were dramatically on the rise under her regime). Also, her prior to D.C. history in Baltimore of making false claims about her educational background and her achievements in Baltimore as a school administrator. I could pass on much more such information about Rhee, but unfortunately it’s not in a form where I can readily post links to it, and while I could post the gist of it all in a post here, that post would be of inordinate length. But let me see what I can do to solve that problem.

  21. turcopolier says:

    Yes. We all know that there are far too many flag officers. But, if you start cutting back, “legacy” general possibilities will be cut back with the reduced number of slots. pl

  22. LeaNder says:

    James, at least partly triggered my response. …
    Although the coordination between the two w
    ill be near seamless, I’d still rather see a separation between them.

    Ok, I understand.

  23. turcopolier says:

    Mattis looks like a good choice to me. The retired generals that Trump seems to favor are in the main not service academy products; Keane, Mattis, Kelly, Flynn. OTOH he seems to like USMA grads who were not career soldiers. pl

  24. Larry Kart says:

    Re: Rhee. You trust the Department of Education’s findings under Arne Duncan, Mr. “Race to the Top,” in regard to falsified test results in the D.C. system when she was in charge? Policy-wise and otherwise, Duncan and Rhee (and Obama, too, for that matter) were pretty much joined at the hip. For much more information on Rhee’s dubious history, while it’s darn tedious to sort it all out, try here:

  25. turcopolier says:

    Larry Kart
    OK, we can look at the data. OTOH I watched from Alexandria as she tried to sort out the trash heap that is the DC public schools system and I have a lot of sympathy for the struggle she made against entrenched political interests in the city council. pl

  26. pl,
    Sounds like Pompeo cut quite a figure as an officer, sort of a human lister bag. He claims he graduated first in his West Point class.

  27. turcopolier says:

    One of the graduates of WP will sort this out but My memory is that they construct an order of merit in each class based on a whole person score. God knows what that may produce. pl

  28. mike allen says:

    Count me in as a big fan of General Mattis. Didn’t he coin the phrase: “Powerpoint makes us stupid”. That alone will make the squatters in the Pentagon miserable.
    He will need congressional waiver since he left the service only three years ago.
    I hope he gets some good trusted deputies to work acquisition, to keep from getting rolled by the corrupt congressmen that are taking the gelt from defense industry lobbyists.

  29. Allen Thomson says:

    > (or the fact that AES-256 is actually a 128 bit cipher masquerading as a 256 bit cipher)
    Realizing that this question is OT, I plead interest in AES-256 to ask:
    Does that mean that it’s pointless to use more than 128 random bits as a key? Or does AES-256 also reduce all effective key lengths so that, e.g., 160 bits might only have the effect of 80? (I’m a cryptonaif, so this question may well not map into cryptoreality very well if at all.)

  30. Outrage Beyond says:

    Regarding that Washington Post story:
    “An earthquake is buried in this story about NSA Director secretly meeting Trump”
    See the tweet for highlighting re: another NSA breach, previously undisclosed.

  31. Outrage Beyond,
    I saw that in the WaPo article. I bet there’s more than that leaking out of the NSA and other agencies. There are too many copiers and printers in those agencies and the exit procedures are fairly lax. It’s really based on self-discipline and the honor system.

  32. Allen Thomson says:

    > and the exit procedures are fairly lax
    Not a new development. Back in Adm. Turner’s tour as DCI people were found to be taking classified, sometimes highly so, stuff out to work on at home at night. So stern warnings were issued that THAT IS NOT OK and entry checks were instituted at HQ to make sure the practice didn’t continue. But it did, people kept showing up in the morning with classified stuff in their briefcases (purses were exempt on the grounds of personal privacy), and eventually Adm. Turner issued an extremely vexed Headquarters Notice emphasizing the NOT OK idea. Then he moved on to another job and the entry checks stopped. It would be amusing to get that HN, as, IIRC, it wasn’t actually classified, maybe FOUO. Maybe I’ll try FOIAing it.
    At no point during this, nor at any other time that I know of, were exit checks done. I do believe that NSA had exit checks of briefcases and such, which seems more logical if you’re going to do door checks at all.
    And, as long as we’re on the topic, one could look into how well document handling and destruction were done, both of paper and microfiche.

  33. Larry Kart says:

    More on Rhee in DC:
    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2013 (Author of this post is Bob Somerby):
    Michelle Rhee has published a book [“Radical”] about her career…. Atop page one of the [Washington Post] Outlook section, Jennifer Howard penned a 1600-word piece about the book…. According to Howard, Rhee is still advancing the idea that mediocrity can’t be allowed in the schools—a somewhat ironic battle cry, given the … mediocrity which characterized Rhee’s work in DC.
    But first, an amusing anecdote! Early in her piece, Howard presents this story from Rhee’s education-first childhood. Howard reads the story one way. We would read it another:
    HOWARD (2/10/13): Before Rhee gets into all that, she revisits her first-generation childhood in Toledo as the daughter of strict Korean parents. Respect for teaching ran in the family; close relatives were educators in Korea, a country Rhee’s father calls “education crazy.”
    The family emphasis on education sometimes went a little far. Rhee remembers when her little brother, Brian, came home with a lackluster grade. “My mother immediately grounded me,” Rhee writes. Why? “It is your responsibility to make sure that he is doing what he needs to do.”
    Rhee tells the story to get at the imbalance of gender roles she grew up with, but it’s tempting to see in that moment the beginnings of her insistence that schools and teachers be held accountable for how their students perform.
    Rhee’s younger brother was having problems—so Rhee’s mother grounded Rhee!
    For our money, Howard misses the way this story connects to Rhee’s time in DC. For our money, this peculiar conduct by Rhee’s mother is very much like Rhee’s approach to her work in DC. Here’s why:
    As best we know, Rhee never introduced new approaches to instruction when she found the DC schools in extremely bad shape. Instead, she simply threatened the teachers. She insisted that they fix the mess!
    There’s nothing wrong with putting pressure on teachers. There’s nothing wrong with firing slackers—quite the contrary.
    But in our view, Rhee was highly mediocre in the realm of instructional practice…. Rhee’s mother pushed the onus onto Rhee—then Rhee did the same with the teachers!
    That strikes us as mediocre performance….Rhee brought a ton of energy to DC—but how much else? Early on, Howard describes the obstacles Rhee confronted. We’d like to record our reaction:
    HOWARD: I’ll leave it to others to argue whether Rhee did the right thing here in Washington. But even the fiercest Rhee-haters among my friends and neighbors agreed with her that DCPS needed help. Some schools, especially in the richer parts of town, enjoyed good test scores and high graduation rates. Elsewhere, in my Southeast neighborhood and in other wards, students trailed far behind their peers nationally in math and reading. Many kids didn’t stay in school at all.
    “The dropout rate was above 50 percent,” Rhee writes. “The achievement gap was a canyon.” Teachers weren’t sure they’d have the textbooks and other materials they needed. School buildings suffered from a lack of maintenance and repairs. The system was a mess—”a whole different level of bad,” Rhee calls it.
    We don’t doubt that this picture is basically accurate. DC’s test scores certainly suggest that the system was in very bad shape—that Rhee was faced with a genuine mess when she entered the system.
    But as we read that passage, our own experience from teaching in Baltimore led us to focus on one statement: “Teachers weren’t sure they’d have the textbooks and other materials they needed.” Our reaction?
    If DC’s kids were as far behind as test scores seemed to suggest, it’s very hard for teachers to get appropriate textbooks and other materials.
    It’s hard to get textbooks the students can read—textbooks whose instructional programming meet the students where they are. This very much isn’t the fault of the teachers. If such materials aren’t available, it’s the ultimate responsibility of the superintendent!
    We never got the slightest sense that Rhee had any sense of that. But then, we taught for a dozen years in Baltimore’s schools. Rhee fled for Harvard after three, trailing bogus tales about her own … genius behind her.
    This brings us to the most striking part of Howard’s piece—the way it buries the bodies…. it isn’t until the final paragraph that this little birdie peeps:
    HOWARD: Rhee started something the city is still playing out. Kaya Henderson , Rhee’s deputy, succeeded her as chancellor under the current mayor, Vincent Gray. Henderson has a quieter style than Rhee did. Although debates still rage over individual schools, charter alternatives, test scores and the occasional cheating scandal, fewer feathers seem ruffled these days. But the new chancellor seems just as willing as the old one to close schools and hold accountable a system that for too long let too many Washington students and their parents down.
    “And the occasional cheating scandal!” Incredibly, that represents Howard’s full discussion of the cheating scandal which afflicted Rhee in DC—an echo of the manifest bullshit she constantly spread about her own teaching career.
    When Rhee arrived in DC, she was still spouting highly improbable claims about the amazing test scores attained by her students in Baltimore. Rhee understood standardized testing so poorly that she didn’t seem to realize that her grandiose claims were essentially absurd on their face.
    It soon became clear that her claims were false—although anyone with an ounce of sense would always have assumed that. Not Rhee—and not the Washington Post! Having told ridiculous tales about those brilliant Baltimore scores, Rhee was soon dogged by ridiculous scores in DC.
    As it turned out, those DC scores were bogus too! Howard buries this massive mediocrity deep inside her last paragraph.
    That said, Rhee has tidied her game. When she arrived in DC, she was making highly specific claims about the test scores her Baltimore kids had attained….
    In her new book, Rhee has finally enacted a bit of reform. This is the way she now describes her vast success in Baltimore:
    RHEE (page 53): By the end of my time at Harlem Park [Elementary School], my kids who had been with me for the second and third grades were soaring. I would have put them up against kids from any private school in Baltimore…These were children who had life stories couldn’t even imagine. Despite all that they came to school every day. They’d come early, and stay late. They came on the weekends. They worked hard. They fought through all the noise and the people telling them, “Don’t do what that Chinese lady is telling you to—come out and play instead.” They’d do their two hours of homework. And they went from being at the bottom to being at the top academically.
    Rhee has learned one lesson. She no longer makes specific claims about the test scores her students achieved. For decades, she made specific claims which were absurd on their face. In this way, she rode to the top on the backs of those kids who had those hard “life stories.”
    By now, the data are gone! Rhee no longer uses numbers when she makes her grandiose claims. That said, there is still no evidence that Rhee achieved the type of success she describes. Given the overall test scores at Harlem Park during those years, it’s hard to see how Rhee’s claim that her students “soared” could be possible.
    We admire the energy Rhee brought to DC. We admire the way she spoke up for deserving urban kids. In fairness, she never could have gotten far without the massive gullibility of our modern “elites.”
    But Rhee was always mediocre.

  34. Matthew says:

    Col: The Warrior Monk (Mattis) is a very interesting character.

  35. robt willmann says:

    From what little I know about the structure at the NSA, my understanding is that the job, at least originally, was to gather signals and electronic information, to break the codes and ciphers of other countries and foreigners, and to create solid codes for use by the U.S. military and government. This is why the NSA employed a large number of mathematicians. They may also have been working on the detection of radar and targeting systems, and jamming technologies, although the Air Force may have been largely or solely working on those issues.
    It seems as if breaking codes and encryption goes hand and hand with gathering signals and other electronic information, especially since the NSA has its own analysts to evaluate information that they gather. I understood from an old-timer that they used to design a lot of their hardware in-house.
    I guess that if the government wanted to use hackers to try to break into the computer systems of foreigners, that could be a separate department of a different agency or perhaps of the DoD itself.
    But to address the problem of computer security, I would think that the people who are supposed to be at the forefront of code and cipher detection and breaking would be the ones to have a lot to say about the defensive systems to use, and that would be the NSA.
    The first solution for computer security is to not use computers at all unless they would seem to be “absolutely necessary”. The second step is to not connect them to the outside world, as the genius people (sarcasm alert) at the Office of Personnel Management apparently did. The shifting of control of electrical grids to computer control is not only 100% stupid, it is very dangerous.

  36. Richard says:

    Having been in the business of defending our networks, I’d say the defense function should be separated from the conduct of offensive operations. Otherwise this important function is likely to get lost. It is a highly technical function which requires engineers undistracted by operational concerns.

  37. robt willmann says:

    A couple of computer security issues on Chinese associated smartphones with the Android operating system, and on the iCloud feature on Apple phones–

  38. Mark Logan says:

    I suspect he will hesitate before accepting SoD. Trump has been a shameless liar during his campaign and his personal views of honor will make joining Trump’s team a struggle for him. Mattis may feel he’s dealt with more than his share of major fusterclucks as well.
    My gut says regardless of all the above he might accept heading the VA though. Just a hunch.

  39. J says:

    IMO POTUS Trump isn’t doing himself any favors having NEOCON Gaffney on his transition team. Hope Gaffney isn’t absorbed into the administration after the inauguration.
    The NEOCONs will drag POTUS Trump’s administration down into their swamp if he isn’t careful. He would do well if he can keep his administration NEOCON free or at the least keep the NEOCONs on the very outer rim.

  40. J says:

    Here’s one more reason why the Clandestine Services (aka CIA) needs to be re-tooled into HUMINT Collection — ONLY! Anything else besides HUMINT Collection is VERBOTEN!
    I’m trying to recall ‘who’ was the DCI when this crap was going on?

  41. crf says:

    It is a very good idea to put each separate function of the NSA into its own agency. Cyber spying and security are at odds with one another, and that usually means that one or the other will dominate the agency’s communications with congress and the public, if not undermine the actual functions of the organisation itself.
    Congress at least deserves to hear a government agency explain the real need for communication networks to have strong, non-underminable encryption standards available, with no ifs, ands or buts about back-doors.

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