Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, commander, US Fleet Cyber Command, has been nominated to lead the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command. (Mike Morones/Staff)
WASHINGTON — President Obama has tapped Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, the US Navy’s cyber chief and long viewed as the likely successor to US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) and National Security Agency (NSA) head Gen. Keith Alexander, to take over for Alexander when he retires later this year, the Defense Department announced late Thursday.
Rogers, who became commander of US Fleet Cyber Command in 2011, served as the director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US Pacific Command.
His nomination to head CYBERCOM comes as no surprise, as Alexander had let it be known that Rogers was his preferred successor, sources said. But although Alexander had announced his upcoming March retirement last year, there was some uncertainty as to whether one person would succeed him in his dual-hatted role with CYBERCOM and as director of the NSA.
The review group appointed by Obama to assess the validity of NSA surveillance programs following the Edward Snowden disclosures had recommended in its December report that the two jobs be separated, and there have been loud calls for the NSA to have a civilian director. Several former senior administration and intelligence officials said that they anticipated a split given the political pressure and the enormous responsibilities currently placed on one man.
But even before the review group’s report was officially released, the Obama administration pre-emptively rejected the idea of dividing the two jobs, setting up Rogers to take both roles. Rumors have circulated for the past week that Rogers had been selected, but no official announcement arrived until Thursday.
His confirmation process is likely to be dicey because of the ongoing political wrangling as the administration works to thwart major changes to the current surveillance system, and members of Congress face wide public discontent.
“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,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement released by the Pentagon. “I am also confident that Admiral Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age.” ■