NSA chief: "Internet is fragile"

As the military's top cybersecurity official, Alexander is tasked with standing up the unit in charge of protecting America's networks from cyber attacks while expanding the country's offensive cyber capabilities. Some critics have argued his appointment has given the intelligence community too much influence over cybersecurity, but the administration has said Alexander's role at NSA will elevate the importance of cyber issues within the government.

Alexander, who seldom speaks in public, has in the past consistently emphasized the constant threats to America's networks sponsored by countries such as China. On Tuesday, he argued the U.S. should take a leadership role in securing the Internet but didn't provide details on how he plans to do so.

"We made the Internet, and it seems to me that we ought to be the first folks to get out there and protect it," Alexander said. "The challenge before us is large and daunting. But we have an obligation to meet it head-on."

The new Cyber Command is co-located with NSA at Ft. Meade, Md., in order to make use of the cryptographic agency's resources and expertise. Alexander said NSA is careful not to infringe on citizens' rights while attempting to secure the nation's networks.

"Our citizens take a lot of interest in the government's activities in this area, and I have an obligation to the law and the American people to ensure everything we do preserves and protects their rights while protecting our interests," he said. "That's an obligation that's never compromised."