President Donald Trump plans to nominate the head of Army Cyber Command, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, to be the next NSA director and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce announced on Twitter late Tuesday.
Nakasone is a respected military professional who has gained a reputation for pioneering the development of the the U.S.’s premier cyberwarfare force. If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first Asian-American to hold the position. NSA Director Mike Rogers is expected to retire this spring.
CyberScoop, The Washington Post, Cipher Brief and Politico all reported in recent weeks that Nakasone was the favorite to land the job. If confirmed, he will bring an innate familiarity to the role given his recent work with U.S. Cyber Command, a partner organization to NSA, which is similarly headquartered at Fort Meade military base in Maryland. U.S. Cyber Command includes the cyber mission teams of each military service branch, including the Navy, Army and Air Force, and operates on Title 10 authorities, making it an outfit focused on warfare and not intelligence collection.
At the moment, NSA and Cyber Command are closely connected. The two organizations often function in tandem, which is why the current hierarchy calls for a so-called “dual-hatted” leader. Based on a provision within the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the dual-hatted arrangement may end as soon as this year; meaning that Cyber Command may need a new, separate leader in the near future.
Prior to assuming the helm at Army Cyber in October 2016, Nakasone led the Cyber National Mission Force at U.S. Cyber Command. Before that he served overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the director for the Directorate for Intelligence, J-2, which supports the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and provides information to other unified combatant commands.
Nakasone is a graduate of the Army War College, Command and General Staff College, Defense Intelligence College, and University of Southern California.