After several years of the NSA and US Cyber Command being under the direction of one chief, General Keith Alexander, top military and civilian leaders are considering divorcing the two positions after Alexander steps down early next year.
“Oh yeah, we’re looking at it. I hope they’re [the administration] looking at it too,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.
While officials maintain that the separation of the two positions should in no way be considered as a reaction to the growing NSA surveillance revelations, many feel that a single chief occupying both the military and civilian leadership roles concentrates too much power in one office.
“Some things are better to have two centers of power. If you have just one, it’s more efficient, but you end up making dumb decisions,” said Jason Healey, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“We’ve now created a center of power that we would never allow in any other area. And it certainly shouldn’t be allowed in something so critical to our future and national security as the Internet and cyberspace,” Healey continued.
Alexander is said to believe that the two positions should remain remain “dual-hatted” after his departure in March of 2014, remaining under the leadership of one single commander.
As NSA chief, Alexander reports to the civilian director of national intelligence James Clapper, but as commander of US Cyber Command, Alexander reports directly to U.S. Strategic Command, creating potential conflicts of interest and oversight challenges.
“You want to be careful that the decision makers are able to evaluate the costs and benefits of both espionage and our possible military operations. I think it’s probably better put forward by two separate voices. That way it would be easier for them to weigh the values,” said Adam Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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