Obama Taps Navy Admiral as NSA Director

Michael Rogers Also Nominated as Cyber Command Head
Obama Taps Navy Admiral as NSA Director
Navy Vice Adm. Michael Rogers

The next director of the National Security Agency is a trained cryptographer who'll need to use his years of experience as a top Navy leader to implement reforms at the agency rocked by the leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden.

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President Obama, in appointing Vice Adm. Michael Rogers as NSA director on Jan. 30, also nominated him to serve as commander of the Cyber Command, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Rogers now heads the Navy Cyber Command.

"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," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says in a statement announcing Rogers' promotions.

Rogers, if confirmed, would replace Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who has served as the NSA director since 2005 and announced his retirement last fall (see NSA Director Alexander to Retire). Alexander was named commander of the Cyber Command in 2010. That's when the military created the subordinate command unit of the U.S. Strategic Command that synchronizes the defense of U.S. military networks (see Military Stands Up CYBERCOM as Its Latest Command). The NSA is also part of the Defense Department. The dual-hatted director-commander holds a 4-star rank.

Snowden Investigator Named NSA Deputy Director

Hagel also announced that Rick Ledgett, the NSA official charged with assessing the damage caused by Snowden the leaks, will serve as Rogers' deputy director at the NSA. The No. 2 post at the NSA is held by a civilian. Ledgett made headlines in December when in an interview with the CBS News Show "60 Minutes" he suggested that "it's worth having a conversation about" granting Snowden amnesty in exchange for the former contractor to return classified documents he took. The Obama administration immediately rejected amnesty for Snowden.

The agency has received much unwanted publicity this past year because of the Snowden leaks that detailed many of the NSA's surveillance programs that critics contend violate Americans' privacy and civil liberties. Earlier this month, Obama outlined reforms to the NSA to curtail some of the electronic snooping (see Obama Orders Review on Use of Big Data and Obama's Difficult Choice on Encryption). It will be Rogers' job with Ledgett's assistance to execute on those reforms.

"Clearly, the biggest challenge will be to rebuild morale within the ranks while also walking the fine line between demands for reform and ensuring their ability to conduct their essential mission," says Robert Bigman, who served for 15 years as chief information security officer at the CIA.

According to the New York Times, Obama recently interviewed Rogers for the job, and the appeal of his background was obvious: A president who has embraced the use of cyberweapons, and warned of the threat of cyber-attacks on the United States, saw in the admiral a man who is described by his Navy peers as a master of a technology that is as critical to defending the fleet today as radar was when it was developed 70 years ago.

Before being named in 2011 commander of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, with responsibilities for the Navy's cyberwarfare programs, Rogers served as director for intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Command from 2007 to 2009 and then in the same post for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2009 to 2011.

A Chicago native, Rogers joined the Navy after graduating from Auburn University in 1981.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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