May 12, 2010, 2:07 PM — The U.S. Senate has approved Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, to also head the military's recently created Cyber Command.
In his new role as commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, Alexander will be responsible for directing operation of the Defense Department's military information networks. He will oversee the new command's intelligence collection activities as well its efforts to develop better offensive and defensive capabilities in cyberspace.
The U.S. Cyber Command was established last June by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The command is designed to address growing threats to the Defense Department and Pentagon networks from foreign and domestic threats.
Cybercom is part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to bolster federal and military cybersecurity capabilities. A similar effort is underway on the civilian side, with a newly created White House cybersecurity coordinator overseeing that task.
Alexander's nomination to the new role had been expected. As head of the NSA since 2005, Alexander, 58, is widely regarded as one of the most qualified individuals to head the new cyber command. In a voice vote Friday, the Senate also approved his promotion to the rank of four-star general.
Alexander's appointment comes at a time when growing cyber threats from overseas, especially China, have led to mounting calls for the U.S. to develop not only a credible cyber defensive capability but an effective cyber offensive one as well.
Alexander has hinted that he is willing to launch offensive strikes against computers located abroad that are used in cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure or military targets. In answers to written questions from senators during his confirmation hearing, Alexander indicated his full support for the lawful use of military force for purposes of self-defense.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld . Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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