Breakup Plan for Cyber Command and NSA

The Trump administration has come up with a proposal to split up the leadership of US Cyber Command and the National Security Agency (NSA).

Under the existing "dual-hat" arrangement, the posts of CYBERCOM commander and NSA director are held by one individual. Right now, that person is General Paul Nakasone.

The proposal, which could significantly reshape America's defense policy, was received by the joint chiefs of staff and joint chiefs chairman General Mark Milley at the end of last week. 

Milley, together with Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, must certify that the plan meets a particular set of standards laid out by Congress in 2016. 

Given that he told Congress in 2019 that the current leadership structure was effective and should continue, Milley is unlikely to approve the proposal. 

In his Senate nomination hearing for chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on July 11, Milley said: "The current 'dual hat' configuration between US Cyber Command and the National Security Agency is working well and should be maintained."

He added that the joint chiefs of staff would benefit from a cyber-readiness review similar to that conducted by the US Navy and reported on in March 2019, including annual cyber-training for all personnel, including military, government, and contractors.

Colonel Dave Butler, a spokesperson for Milley, said on Saturday that the chairman "has not reviewed nor endorsed any recommendation to split CYBERCOM and NSA."

US Cyber Command, the digital attack–fighting branch of America's military, was established in 2009. 

The timing of the proposal to split the role into two distinct posts comes just after the United States was struck by a large-scale cyber-attack that impacted at least six federal agencies. An investigation into the true extent of the assault and from whence it originated is ongoing. 

In a joint statement issued on Sunday, Senators Ben Sasse and Angus King and Representatives Mike Gallagher and Jim Langevin said that the timing of the proposal, mere weeks before the end of Trump's presidency, was all wrong. 

“Regardless of whether it’s better to keep or end the dual-hat arrangement between NSA and CYBERCOM, now is not the time to do it," said the statement.

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