White House says it won’t separate NSA, Cyber Command

An interagency review group determined having one leader for both organizations makes the most sense to get the mission done.

The White House has decided not to separate the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command after an interagency review found the current setup to be the “most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement that with Gen. Keith Alexander planning to retire this spring, it made sense to review the relationship between the two organizations and decide if having one dual-hatted leader continued to make sense.

“By virtue of their relationship, Cyber Command is able to fully leverage NSA’s cryptologic enterprise to direct the operation and defense of DoD networks, enabling a more coordinate and rapid response to countering threats in cyberspace,” Hayden said. “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.”

The White House came under pressure to review this relationship in light of information released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about programs and initiatives to collect data.

A senior administration official added the White House is reviewing the government’s processes around signals intelligence, but while this decision was related, it was not part of that effort. President Barack Obama called for this review in August. A report and recommendations are due to the President by Dec. 15. The recommendations will cover whether the U.S. “employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.”

The official said once Alexander retires, the NSA and Cyber Command leader will continue to be a military officer.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates created the Cyber Command in 2009 and ordered the NSA director to lead both organizations.

Hayden said the goal, at that time, was to unify the leadership of the organization responsible for signal intelligence and defending the nation in cyberspace.

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