Now is the Time to Split NSA and CYBERCOM

By Javed Ali

Javed Ali has over twenty years professional experience in Washington, DC on national security issues, to include senior roles at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and National Security Council focused on counterterrorism. He is an Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

OPINION — Recent news of another audacious hack against the US critical infrastructure and interests overseas—this time from the Chinese-based “Volt Typhoon” group-underscores the ongoing challenge from nation-states in the cybersecurity realm.  This latest operation fits the pattern of cyber operations designed to collect intelligence via digital reconnaissance and extract key information and lay the groundwork for more destructive computer code that could possibly impair operational technology systems that control critical infrastructure.  Russia in particular has demonstrated that capability in years past against Ukraine, and during the current conflict has engaged in multiple attempts to achieve those objectives, albeit perhaps not as successfully as designed. 

Since cyber operations against the United States will most certainly persist in the coming years, now is the time to rethink a key element of the current US cybersecurity framework—the combined leadership of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM).  This is especially critical as the Biden administration has nominated a new CYBERCOM chief to replace General Paul Nakasone, the outgoing one.

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