Meet the man who could be next in line to control the NSA’s spying apparatus

October 16, 2013
(Navy)
(Navy)

Reuters reports that both Gen. Keith B. Alexander, NSA and U.S. Cyber Command chief, and his civilian deputy John "Chris" Inglis will be departing the National Security Agency (NSA) soon. And they identify Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, current commander of the U.S. Navy's 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, as one leading candidate to replace Alexander in the top spot.

While it's unclear if that means replacing him as the head of the NSA, the head of U.S Cyber Command, or both roles -- and as my colleague Brian Fung argues, unclear if that matters -- it is clear that it's worth knowing something about Rogers.  So who is he?

A long-time Navy man with a background in cryptology

Rogers joined the Navy after receiving his commission via the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps after graduating from Auburn University in 1981. He's also a graduate of the Naval War College.  According to his Navy biography, he was originally a surface warfare officer, but selected for "re-designation" to cryptology in 1986. Since then he's served in numerous cryptological roles, including as the senior cryptologist at the strike group level on the staff of Commander, Carrier Group Two/John F. Kennedy Carrier Strike Group and leading "the cryptologic direct support missions aboard U.S. submarines and surface units in the Arabian Gulf and Mediterranean." Rogers took over his current role as the head of the Navy’s cyber command in September 2011.

Someone who views the Internet as an offensive zone

Rogers told CHIPS, the Department of the Navy's Information Technology Magazine, that the role of his team of "cyber warriors" was both to defend naval networks and achieve "information dominance." But he also had somethings to say about how the Naval force should approach cyberspace in general.

"While cyberspace has been traditionally thought of as an enabler (supporting combat) in the traditional sea, air and land environs, today, it is a primary warfare domain of equal importance. Because the Navy’s combat power is drawn from a highly networked and electromagnetic spectrum dependent force, the Navy will need to lead, engage and win the fight across these critical enironments[SIC]."

Not necessarily going to be the next head of the NSA

Reuters reports its sources say "no final decision" has been made about who will succeed Alexander. So while Rogers is a leading candidate, he certainly isn't a lock for the top NSA job.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Brian Fung · October 16, 2013