NSA chief Alexander confirmed as head of U.S. Cyber Command

The Senate on Tuesday easily confirmed on voice vote Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, already the director of the National Security Agency, as chief of the newly created U.S. Cyber Command.

Alexander, now a four-star general, will now oversee both the country's international espionage as well as a new cyber unit tasked with defending U.S. computer networks from international hacks and launching cyberattacks of its own against possible offenders.

The post, however, will not be active until the Command's is ready for operation later this year.


“We are pleased that the Senate has moved forward with his confirmation,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. “General Alexander brings to the job the leadership to stand up this command, and the skills and expertise that will be critical to the new command in dealing with security challenges in the cyber domain.”

The Defense Department commissioned the new U.S. Cyber Command in June as federal lawmakers and industry experts began sounding louder alarms about digital threats posed to the nation's computer systems and infrastructure. But plans to confirm Alexander last year hit a political snag when some lawmakers questioned whether it was appropriate for the head of the civilian NSA to also run a military command.

While Cyber Command supporters stressed the new effort is merely a way for the military to safeguard its network and track its cyberattackers, skeptics said Alexander's relationship with the NSA would afford the command exceptional leverage and power.

But the general's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month seemed to put some of his skeptics at ease. Many of its members praised the now-four star general for his years of service and knowledge on what many agree is a complex, legally obscure topic.

"We face a growing array of cyber threats... who are capable of stealing, manipulating or destroying information that could compromise our national security," Alexander told lawmakers during the hearing.
"If confirmed, my main focus will be on building the capacity, capabilities and critical partnerships required for security," he added.