NSA and CyberCom: Looking at the Leadership

The debate continues over the propriety of a single commander directing both the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command (CyberCom) in a recently published article by The Washington Post.  Here are some of the pros and cons of permitting General Keith Alexander, or his successor, to wear both hats:


  • NSA and CyberCom operate under a single network.  Trying to separate the operation of a single network will create splits in leadership and additional decision-making problems.
  • CyberCom and NSA must be closely connected because much of what CyberCom was set up to do (defend the nation in cyberspace) depends on intelligence from the NSA.
  • Possible implications of separating the two: failure to stop denial-of-service attacks, rerouting a jihadi website, disrupting an industrial control or military weapons system.


  • We are essentially “allowing the same military commander to tell us how bad the problem is and propose and implement suggestions to fix it.”  –Jason Healey, director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.
  • Some believe General Alexander is too quick to respond offensively even when the attack does not cause enough harm to warrant an offensive strike.  This leads people to question the power given to one individual running two critical U.S. agencies, as well as General Alexander’s wisdom, generally.
  • Keeping the agencies under the same director “blur[s] the lines between a military command and a national spy agency” –Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution expert on evolving modes of warfare.

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One Response to “NSA and CyberCom: Looking at the Leadership”

  1. […] Security Agency (NSA) and Cyber Command under a single commander.  This decision comes amidst a host of concerns over giving a single leader too much […]

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography