Gen. Keith Alexander confirmed to head cyber-command

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, has been confirmed to head a new military command that will be capable of launching attacks against enemy computer networks.

A voice vote in the Senate on Friday elevated the career military intelligence officer from a lieutenant general to a four-star general. Alexander, 58, has headed the government's largest electronic espionage agency since 2005.

The Pentagon's cyber-command will be located at Fort Meade, NSA's headquarters, to take advantage of that agency's expertise in penetrating adversaries' networks as well as defending the military's systems. The command, which will fall under U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska, is scheduled to be fully operational in October.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that the department is pleased with the Senate's confirmation of Alexander, adding that "Gen. Alexander brings a wealth of experience and expertise to address the many security challenges facing the Department in this domain."

At his confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Alexander said the prospect of cyberwarfare is real, but likely would exist as part of a larger military campaign. He also said that the command must be ready to assist the Department of Homeland Security in a cyber-crisis affecting critical industries, such as the power and financial sectors. The most difficult problem in a crisis, he said, will be figuring out how to coordinate DHS, Pentagon and industry.

President Obama nominated Alexander to head the command in October. His confirmation had been delayed by questions on the Hill over exactly what the command's roles, authorities and operational scope would be. But at Alexander's hearing, committee members from both parties expressed confidence he would be confirmed -- even though the administration has not fully resolved policy issues governing offensive action in cyberspace.

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