President Obama has promised reforms to bring transparency to the US' extensive surveillance programs, and placing a civilian in charge could work hand-in-hand with those plans. The Hill reported earlier this week that the White House has compiled a list of civilian candidates who could replace current NSA director Keith Alexander when he steps down this spring. No decisions have been made yet, a former official tells the website, but a move to place a person without military experience at the top of the NSA would coincide with splitting off leadership of US Cyber Command. The command is in charge of the military's cyber operations, like missions to hack enemy networks.
Even with the latest report, it seems that Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers remains the front-runner to take Alexander's post. Officials say that Alexander's decision to step down came before the torrent of leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden, which have revealed much of the NSA's surveillance activities. Bringing in a civilian to lead the NSA — and splitting off control of US Cyber Command — could help cut down on the agency's wide-ranging spying. The Hill notes that the NSA has been led by military officers since 1952, when it was created. The CIA and FBI are run by civilian chiefs, however.