NSA-Cyber Command Chief Recommends No Split Until 2020

 In Land, Defense, Sea, Cyber/ICT, Infrastructure, Regions, Information

SAN FRANCISCO The com­man­der of the nation’s top mil­i­tary cyber­se­cu­ri­ty orga­ni­za­tions, the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, has rec­om­mend­ed they split from each other next year, Defense One has con­firmed. That’s anoth­er delay for an orga­ni­za­tion­al change first planned for in 2016 and since slowed to allow offi­cials time to sort out the author­i­ties for the civil­ian agency and mil­i­tary com­mand and ensure that both enti­ties can per­form well inde­pen­dent­ly.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads NSA and CYBERCOM, rec­om­mend­ed to former Defense Secretary James Mattis last August that the split be put off until 2020, cur­rent and former intel­li­gence offi­cials told Defense One this week. Those offi­cials believe the general’s rec­om­men­da­tion will be accept­ed by Pentagon lead­ers, though Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s views are not known. A Pentagon spokesman said no offi­cial deci­sion has been made. Previous reports have hinted at the timing with­out con­firm­ing a year. In December, Defense One filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the com­mand for the infor­ma­tion, which was denied on the basis that the infor­ma­tion was “pre-deci­sion­al.”

Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month that the deci­sion how to split the orga­ni­za­tions “remains with the sec­re­tary.”

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter first floated the idea to split the agen­cies in 2016. They cur­rent­ly func­tion under a “dual-hat arrange­ment”: the four-star head of CYBERCOM also leads he NSA. In the  2017 National Defense Authorization Act, law­mak­ers authorized DOD to split CYBERCOM from the NSA and ele­vate it to be the nation’s tenth uni­fied com­bat­ant com­mand, on par with Strategic Command, which con­trols nuclear weapons, and com­bat­ant com­mands for troops in var­i­ous regions around the globe. The bill also autho­rized the cre­ation of a new civil­ian direc­tor of NSA. But the split was only to occur if the defense sec­re­tary and chair­man of the Joints Chiefs cer­ti­fied to Congress that the split would not hurt the com­mand. Congress direct­ed no timing for the split.

The sources also con­firmed a report in October that Chris Inglis, former deputy direc­tor of the NSA, is the pick to lead the inde­pen­dent civil­ian agency after the breakup. Inglis is pop­u­lar with intel­li­gence offi­cials and others in the pri­vate cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty who spoke to Defense One.

Why so long to split the two enti­ties? The con­cern has always been how well CYBERCOM would per­form with less access to NSA’s tools and capa­bil­i­ties. (U.S. Cyber Command was estab­lished in 2009, the NSA in 1952.)

The mar­riage has, at times, been dif­fi­cult.

NSA can’t achieve its full poten­tial because it has to do so much for Cyber Command. That’s a widely held view,” said one former senior intel­li­gence offi­cial. The timing also depend­ed on whether the latter’s head could gen­er­ate “resources Cyber Command doesn’t have.” For exam­ple, the former offi­cial said, CYBERCOM lacks the NSA’s recruit­ing infra­struc­ture.

The former offi­cial said the agen­cies will be better able to carry out their increas­ing­ly diver­gent mis­sions as sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions. The NSA’s prin­ci­pal charges are col­lect­ing for­eign intel­li­gence and pro­tect­ing crit­i­cal U.S. net­works. Cyber Command focus­es on col­lect­ing sig­nals intel­li­gence col­lec­tion, defend­ing net­works, and achiev­ing cyber effects, such as tar­get­ing and manip­u­lat­ing enemy com­put­ers, sys­tems, and phones — all in sup­port of U.S. mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. (They also play a sup­port­ing role to DHS in the event a mas­sive attack aimed at U.S. infra­struc­ture.) “The NSA archi­tec­ture and tools are not fit for Cyber Command,” said the former offi­cial. Both agreed that the rec­om­men­da­tion was likely to pass.

Under Nakasone, CYBERCOM dis­rupt­ed Russian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions during the U.S. 2018 midterm elections. He also played a big role in the offensive cyber operations against ISIS. Previously, he helped Gen. Keith Alexander stand up U.S. Cyber Command and helped Army and Navy Cyber Mission Force teams hit operational capability ahead of schedule.

Source: Defense One

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