Duel Over Dual Hats

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he will try to block any effort to split the joint leadership of the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command before President Barack Obama leaves office. Top administration officials, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, are reportedly proposing to separate the commands held concurrently by Adm. Michael Rogers, within the next few months according to NBC News. McCain said SASC has been left in the dark about the decision. “I do not believe rushing to separate the dual hat in the final months of an administration is appropriate, given the very serious challenges we face in cyberspace and the failure of this administration to develop an effective deterrence policy,” McCain said. If a decision to split CYBERCOM from the NSA is made, McCain said, he would object to the confirmation of anyone who was not nominated to head both organizations. McCain asked Rogers whether he believes it is in the best national security interest of the United States for the role to remain dual-hatted, and Rogers said, “Yes.” The Obama administration has reportedly considered the split as part of the process to elevate CYBERCOM—currently a sub-unified command subordinate to US Strategic Command—to a unified combatant command, according to Reuters.