“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.