On Friday, the United States Senate confirmed the promotion of Army Lt. General Keith Alexander to rank of General. General Alexander is – and will remain – the Director of the National Security Agency and will also assume command of the new sub-unified Cyber Command. Alexander becomes the first Director in NSA’s 58 year history to hold the rank of General.
This is one vote the Senate got right!
This is what I wrote about Alexander when he was nominated by President Obama in October:
A brilliant man, yet a very down-to-earth type with an active (and sometimes goofy) sense of humor, the new DIRNSA probed and tested the workforce and senior management for the best ways to maximize the incredible talent pool that is NSA. He found what worked, ejected what didn’t and created an atmosphere for intellectual and technical innovation.
When questions arose in Congress about NSA surveillance practices or the Director requested funds, Alexander would receive a virtual unanimous approval from both sides of the political aisle. Although press reports may indicate some members (usually Democrats) voicing “concerns,” in committee meetings, those concerns didn’t exist.
Keith Alexander is as good as it gets. He’s a man focused on his mission and who appreciates those who work “in the trenches.” He’s a solid patriot which also means he follows the law. Anyone who believes in “Big Brother” conspiracies when it comes to NSA can save that paranoia for something (or someone) else because it does not apply to LTG Alexander or NSA under his guidance.
LTG Alexander likes to say that what NSA does it does “for the good of the country.” It is the truth. It has been the truth since its inception in 1952. Still, Keith Alexander is, in the form of a single man, the embodiment of generations of innovation, dedication, patriotism and courage.
So why is any of this important? With General Alexander’s promotion comes the next step in the establishment of Cyber Command.
From the Washington Post:
The Pentagon’s cyber-command will be located at Fort Meade, NSA’s headquarters, to take advantage of that agency’s expertise in penetrating adversaries’ networks as well as defending the military’s systems. The command, which will fall under U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska, is scheduled to be fully operational in October.
At his confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Alexander said the prospect of cyber warfare is real, but likely would exist as part of a larger military campaign. He also said that the command must be ready to assist the Department of Homeland Security in a cyber-crisis affecting critical industries, such as the power and financial sectors.
The General won’t like this post. As is his “style,” he’ll likely keep his promotion very low-key. There will be little beyond the traditional “pinning-on” ceremony during which Alexander will express his appreciation for the elevation, before diverting attention from himself to the NSA population. Even during his confirmation hearing, the General made sure the panel of Senators were aware that he wants the attention and accolades to go to the folks in the trenches who do so much work “for the good of the country.” He will walk point for every one of them, yet stand in the shadows so they can take well deserved credit.
But make no mistake… beneath the mild demeanor is a giant. His is a name you likely didn’t know running an agency about which you didn’t know what you thought you knew.
It takes broad shoulders to wear four stars. For this and many more reasons, Keith Alexander qualifies.