Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers is President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, which would give him the difficult task of protecting both privacy rights and national security if he is confirmed by the Senate.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the nomination in a statement on Thursday along with the appointment of NSA’s Chief Operating Officer Rick Ledgett to be its new deputy director. Army Gen. Keith Alexander will retire this spring from his positions as the director of the NSA and head of U.S. Cyber Command. Alexander became director of the NSA in 2005 and assumed an additional position as the chief of U.S. Cyber Command in 2010.
Hagel touted Rogers’ background as a cryptologist who commanded U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, and expressed confidence that the vice admiral could help implement reforms proposed by Obama to address waning public confidence in the NSA’s surveillance programs.
“This is a critical time for the NSA, and Vice Adm. Rogers would bring extraordinary and unique qualifications to this position as the agency continues its vital mission and implements President Obama's reforms,” Hagel said. “I am also confident that Adm. Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age.”
The nomination of a Navy admiral falls short of what privacy advocates wanted to revamp the NSA. A panel of five legal and technology experts recommended in its advisory report to Obama in December that the new director of the NSA should not be a military official.
Ledgett has been assessing the possible damage done to security at the NSA following the leaks of classified documents by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. Ledgett said in an interview with CBS in December “it’s worth having a conversation” to consider clemency for Snowden to return to the U.S. if he could ensure that the remainder of the data he took that has not yet been shared. Alexander did not agree with that possibility of amnesty and told CBS it would be like pardoning a hostage taker after he already killed a few hostages.