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Review Suggest that NSA and Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) Should Continue to Share Leader

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A December 2020 report given to the Pentagon and intelligence community strongly favors the continuation of a “dual-hat” leader arrangement for both the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command.  While the report did stop short of making an official recommendation, it found that retaining the “dual hat” came with advantages and benefits for both organizations, thus keeping it would be a net positive for national security, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity (the findings are not public).

The report was drafted by a select group of individuals led by former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., was submitted to Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, in December 2022. They had requested the review last year.

The issue over the “dual hat” has generated considerable debate ever since the U.S. Cyber Command was established in 2010.  According to a U.S. official, “It would be hard to see how they could split the dual hats in the near future given the in-depth report done by Gen. Dunford.”  Some in Congress favored the continuation of the “dual-hat” arrangement, such as   Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) a leading lawmaker on cybersecurity, who noted that “I’ve long been of the opinion that the dual-hat arrangement is effective and there’s no reason to change it.”

Said General Paul M. Nakasone (who took the reins as NSA in 2018) at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California in December 2022, “Why is the dual hat so important for the nation?”. “It gives us three things. … It gives us speed. It gives us agility. And it gives us unity of action in a domain that moves so rapidly.”

According to Nicole de Haay, spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the review “identified substantial benefits of the dual-hat leadership structure of NSA and USCYBERCOM and no significant adverse impacts to intelligence activities, cyber effects operations or cyber defense that would justify terminating the arrangement, even as additional areas of study were identified that could improve performance under the dual hat.”

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