Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to nominate the director of the National Security Agency to head a new Pentagon Cyber Command, which will coordinate computer-network defense and direct U.S. cyber-attack operations, according to a draft memo by Mr. Gates.
The move comes amid rising concern in the government about attacks on U.S. networks. The command will run military cybersecurity operations and provide support to civil authorities, according to the memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
NSA Director Keith Alexander, a three-star general, is expected to earn a fourth star when he moves to his new job at the Cyber Command. The memo doesn’t state that directly, but says that his deputy at the new command will be of a three-star rank. It isn’t clear who will succeed him at the NSA.
(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)
The Department of Homeland Security is charged with securing the government’s nonmilitary networks, and cybersecurity experts said the Obama administration will have to better define the extent of this military support to Homeland Security. “It’s a fine line” between providing needed technical expertise to support federal agencies improving their own security and deeper, more invasive programs, said Amit Yoran, a former senior cybersecurity official at the Homeland Security Department.
The new command is necessary, the memo says, because “our increasing dependency on cyberspace, alongside a growing array of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, adds a new element of risk to our national security.” At least initially, it will be part of U.S. Strategic Command, which is currently responsible for securing the military’s networks and waging attacks on the Internet.