The White House has decided to maintain the “dual-hatted” arrangement which sees a single military officer head the National Security Agency eavesdropping service and US cyber warfare operations, an official said Friday.
The move comes as the administration finalizes a review ordered by President Barack Obama into the NSA’s sweeping worldwide data and phone record collection, following revelations by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Some critics of the current system had argued that the NSA and the military’s cyber warfare command should be headed by different officials to avoid too much clandestine power residing in one official.
But National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that after an interagency review, the administration “decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command Commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”
“NSA plays a unique role in supporting Cyber Command’s mission, providing critical support for target access and development, including linguists, analysts, cryptanalytic capabilities and sophisticated technological infrastructure.” Hayden said.
In practice, the decision means that the NSA will continue to be headed by a military officer — as the head of Cyber Command will of necessity be a senior member of the armed services.
The current head of the two agencies, four-star General Keith Alexander, retires early next year.
Obama said last week that he would introduce some restraints on the NSA following the review.
Officials said that the study into NSA operations in the wake of the Snowden affair was still expected to be delivered to the president by Sunday.
It remains unclear when Obama will present unclassified findings of the report publicly.