OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama picks Rogers to lead NSA

The Topline: It’s official: President Obama will nominate Vice Adm. Michael Rogers to lead the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement Thursday that Obama had selected Rogers to be the next NSA director.

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If confirmed, Rogers would be thrown into the middle of the fight over the NSA’s surveillance programs; Obama has proposed reforms to rein in the collection of records of Americans’ phone calls and other measures that would require congressional action.

Hagel said that Rogers, who currently heads the Navy’s Cyber Command, would bring in “extraordinary and unique qualifications” to the role.

“I am also confident that Admiral Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age,” he added.

Rogers could face a difficult confirmation process — the role and powers of the NSA have come under scrutiny in Congress in response to the revelations from NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Rogers would succeed Gen. Keith Alexander, who has led the NSA for nearly nine years but is planning to step down in March.

Rogers’s nomination ends any thoughts about splitting up the roles of NSA director and head of the military’s four-year-old Cyber Command, a step that a White House review group had proposed taking.

The White House rejected that idea last year.

In addition to Rogers, Rick Leggett, who has been in charge of assessing the damages of leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden, will be nominated to be the NSA’s deputy director.

Air Force suspends 92 airmen: More than 100 Air Force missile control officers are temporarily suspended or restricted from their jobs following a probe that discovered cheating on monthly job proficiency tests among its forces. 

So far, 92 officers at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana have been suspended after cheating or having known about the cheating, and 22 across several bases are temporarily restricted after failing a force-wide retest. 

The suspensions are causing a crunch among the nuclear force, as other officers pull double duty or fill in at Malmstrom from other bases. 

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday she remains confident in the nuclear force mission. The service is launching a 60-day review to solve what they believe are systemic problems within the nuclear missile force. 

U.S. slams Syria on chemical weapons plan: The Obama administration urged Syria on Thursday to comply with deadlines under the United Nations plan to destroy its chemical weapons program.

So far, Syria has only removed 4 percent of the chemical weapons material it was supposed to have removed by Dec. 31. It will likely miss a Feb. 5 deadline to remove less toxic weapons material.

"Since the last meeting of this Council on January 8th, the effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled," said U.S. Ambassador Robert Mikulak at a United Nations Security Council Meeting on Thursday. 

U.S. concern is building after the U.S. vessel Cape Ray sailed from Virginia Monday evening toward the Mediterranean Sea, where it will eventually pick up the chemical weapons material and destroy them at sea. 

The Cape Ray is expected to be at sea on its mission as many as nine months, but with only several tons of weapons material out of hundreds removed from Syria, the mission could take much longer. 

“The Syrian government has to take responsibility of fulfilling its commitment that has been made,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a press conference from Warsaw, Poland, where he is traveling.

McCain: Armed Services Committee a ‘cuckold’: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn’t like being the “last to know” about things, particularly when it comes to foreign policy matters and the Obama administration.

On Thursday, McCain said the administration’s unwillingness to share had made the Senate and the Senate Armed Services Committee like a “cuckolded husband.”

The comparison came when McCain was asked Thursday about a report that the administration had told NATO allies that Russia was violating the medium-range missile treaty.

“I haven’t seen the evidence. I’ve only seen the media reports,” McCain told reporters. “I have found that the Senate — particularly the Senate Armed Services Committee — is very much like the cuckolded husband. They’re the last to know.”

McCain is a frequent critic of the administration’s classified briefings. He’s said they’re a waste of time on more than one occasion because the officials aren’t providing enough information. 

 

In Case You Missed It:

— Poll: US failed in Iraq, Afghanistan

— Issa to probe Navy bribery scandal

— McCain: Obama ‘disconnected’ from reality in Mideast

— GOP: US should act on Russia treaty violations

— Commission: Cut active Air Force, boost Reserves

 

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