President Obama will nominate Vice Admiral Michael Rogers as the new director of the National Security Agency and the chief of US Cyber Command. Throughout his over 30 years with the Navy, Rogers has worked extensively in cryptology, and since 2011 has been commander of the US Fleet Cyber Command. He will succeed General Keith Alexander, who's planning to step down this spring.
"Today, [cyberspace] is a primary warfare domain of equal importance."
Rogers would be taking over both the incredible cyber power and the widespread surveillance controversies overseen by his predecessor. He's been rumored to take over for several months now, with a number of publications reporting over the past week that Rogers is set to be nominated. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed the nomination this afternoon.
"This is a critical time for the NSA, and Vice Admiral Rogers would bring extraordinary and unique qualifications to this position as the agency continues its vital mission and implements President Obama's reforms," Hagel says a statement. Hagel points to Roger's tenure as the Navy's cyber chief and a fleet commander for evidence of his expertise. "I am also confident that Admiral Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age."
Speaking with the Navy's CHIPS Magazine last year, Rogers said that digital intelligence was a critical part of networking the entire military. "While cyberspace has been traditionally thought of as an enabler (supporting combat) in the traditional sea, air, and land environs," Rogers said, "Today, it is a primary warfare domain of equal importance."
The Washington Post reports that Obama interviewed Rogers two weeks ago, and that Alexander reportedly supports the selection of Rogers as his successor. Rogers would have to be confirmed by the Senate first, in a series of hearings that may become embroiled in the ongoing surveillance debate.
"[Rogers] is highly respected throughout the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says in a statement. Clapper has previously worked with Rogers and says that he will be able to strengthen the intelligence community's integration. "[Rogers] is a dedicated career intelligence officer who deeply understands signals intelligence and cyber operations, which makes him uniquely qualified to lead the NSA and US Cyber Command missions."
Many advocating for surveillance reform were hoping to see the leadership between the NSA and Cyber Command split. There was also hope that Obama would elect a civilian to run the NSA, rather than a military officer. Obama has decided not to split the leadership role, and Rogers' appointment would continue the NSA's tradition of taking on a military leader.
This article has been updated with comments from DNI Clapper.