Daily Dispatches
Vice Adm. Michael Rogers
Associated Press/U.S. Navy
Vice Adm. Michael Rogers

Next NSA director knows cyber warfare

National Security

President Barack Obama nominated Navy Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of the Navy’s Cyber Command and former intelligence director, as the next director of the National Security Agency (NSA). He is also nominated for a fourth star and to serve simultaneously as head of U.S. Cyber Command.

Rogers will replace Army Gen. Keith Alexander when he retires in mid March. Alexander’s nearly nine-year tenure as NSA director has been punctuated by a series of revelations about the government’s warrantless wiretapping and expansive phone and data collection programs that came to light as a result of leaks from former analyst Edward Snowden. Alexander also served as the first commander of U.S. Cyber Command, the Pentagon’s four-year-old cyberwarfare organization. 

Despite concerns that the lines have blurred between the NSA and Cyber Command, the White House said it intends to continue having one commander oversee both the programs. Rogers’ nomination continues the 62-year tradition of having a uniformed military officer as director of the NSA.

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While the president can appoint an NSA director, Rogers would need confirmation by the Senate to get a fourth star and take over Cyber Command. The naval officer will likely face a heated confirmation hearing as lawmakers air their frustrations with the agency’s widespread secret data collection programs, which have gathered the phone records of hundreds of millions in the United States. He likely will be forced to lay out his vision for how the agency will move forward.

Cybersecurity expert James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, expects the next NSA leader to face some difficult challenges.

“There will be three giant problems for whoever takes over,” Lewis said. “They will face political problems both with Capitol Hill and with foreign partners, morale problems with the workforce, and technological problems trying to rebuild data collection capabilities.”

Although the government still doesn’t know the full extent of the damage done by Snowden’s disclosures, the NSA must find a way to recover and more foward, Lewis added.

Rogers took over the Navy’s Fleet Cyber command in September 2011, and before that served as director of intelligence on the Joint Staff, during the tenure of then-Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

A native of Chicago and graduate of Alabama’s Auburn University, Rogers got his commission through the school’s Navy ROTC and was initially a surface warfare officer. He then switched to cryptology.

Rogers is a graduate of the National War College and the Naval War College and holds a Master of Science in national security strategy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael Cochrane
Michael Cochrane

Michael is a retired Defense Department engineer and former Army officer who is an adjunct professor of engineering management at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Michael on Twitter @MFCochrane.


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