NSA Moving Forward With Controversial Reorganization Plan

NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers. (Photo: Intelligence and National Security Alliance, INSA)

NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers. (Photo: Intelligence and National Security Alliance, INSA)

The National Security Agency announced Monday it is moving ahead with a massive reorganization plan that will consolidate offensive and defensive hacking operations under one command—a move that privacy and civil liberties groups, as well as a presidential review board, have warned would create potential conflicts of interest.

NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers announced the decision to move forward with the reorganization plan, known as NSA21, or NSA in the 21st century, in an address to NSA employees released Monday.

“The launch of NSA21 is the beginning of a forward-leaning, decisive response. It is a two-year plan to position the Agency to meet increasingly complicated challenges stemming from the proliferation of asymmetric threats to national security, the rapid evolution of the global communications network, fast-growing demand for NSA’s products and services, and the continuing evolution of our cyber mission,” Rogers said in his statement.

The reoNSA21-Logorganization will establish six new directorates under a centralized NSA operating framework. Those directorates include: Workforce and Support Activities; Business Management and Acquisition; Engagement and Policy; Operations, Capabilities, and Research; Foreign Signals Intelligence; and Information Assurance.

The “new structure will enable us to consolidate capabilities and talents to ensure that we’re using all of our resources to maximum effect to accomplish our mission, and to make sure that each of you has the opportunity to grow and develop in your career at NSA,” Rogers said.

NSA21 is not the first major reorganization for the once super-secret NSA. In 1999, a group of midlevel managers at NSA produced the New Enterprise Team report, which was highly critical of the agency’s leadership and intelligence failures. Michael Hayden, the NSA director at the time, described the group of 19 managers as “responsible anarchists,” and immediately set out on his “100 Days of Change” initiative. It was the NETeam assessment that led to the creation of the many post-9/11 global surveillance programs, which remain highly controversial.

A review board appointed in 2013 by President Barack Obama in response to the global outcry over the NSA’s surveillance programs, recommended that the agency focus only on foreign intelligence gathering. Continuing to allow NSA to also oversee defensive information assurance operations—protecting U.S. critical infrastructure and private networks from major attacks—would lead to inevitable conflicts of interest between the agency’s surveillance and hacking operations, and its defensive operations.

Dan Verton
About Dan Verton
MeriTalk Executive Editor Dan Verton is a veteran journalist and winner of the First Place Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting -- the highest award in the nation for business/trade journalism. Dan earned a Master's Degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 20 years in the nation's capital reporting on government, enterprise technology, policy and national cybersecurity. He’s also a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, has authored three books on cybersecurity, and has testified on critical infrastructure protection before both House and Senate committees.
4 Comments
  1. Anonymous | - Reply
    Interested to see how this reorganization impacts efforts moving forward. Hoping quality of work isn't sacrificed for the sake of consolidating.
  2. Anonymous | - Reply
    Glad NSA is looking ahead as an organization instead of staying stuck in their ways. Is the agency providing their landmark goals after the 2 year mark?
  3. Anonymous | - Reply
    Interesting read...where do we draw the line? Allowing the NSA to oversee defensive info leads to inevitable conflicts of interest.
  4. Anonymous | - Reply
    Many observers believe that the Edgar Snowden case has caused such an irreversible damage to his agency that might take a lot more monies to fix it. Here, people are not talking about replicable system(s) that he has assisted to create in his host country, but his time in Hong Kong gave away the vulnerability of many other systems. It might make both Congress and the White House to re-fathom the damages. The questions are that "can NSA21 fully overcome the past Snowden case?" , and "how many other agencies will need their op overhauls as results of the case?" Also, Hacking and Intrusion are two separate cyber behaviors from the practices of the cyber rouge.

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