WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is set to announce that Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers will become the director of the National Security Agency and commander of the new Pentagon unit that directs the country’s offensive cyberoperations, senior administration officials said.
Rogers, a cryptologist by training who has quietly risen to the top of naval intelligence operations, will become the public face of the NSA at a moment that it is caught in the cross hairs of the roiling debate about whether its collection of information about US citizens and foreign leaders has exceeded legal constraints, and common sense.
Rogers will succeed General Keith B. Alexander, who has served as NSA director for nearly nine years and was the first to lead the civilian spy agency and four-year-old Cyber Command.
Rogers has been viewed as the leading candidate to succeed Alexander. But Rogers would come to the job with far more experience in code-breaking and the design of America’s new arsenal of cyberweapons than he would in dealing with the civil liberties issues that have engulfed the NSA.
He would have to be confirmed by the Senate, and the hearings on his nomination could become enmeshed in the questions of the future of the NSA and its bulk data collection programs.
A presidential advisory panel recommended in December that President Obama split the jobs of NSA director and head of Cyber Command, which would have separated the civilian surveillance and code-breaking tasks from the development of cyberweapons and defense of military networks.
But Obama rejected that advice, concluding that the surveillance and cyberwar functions were so interrelated that separating the jobs would set the United States back.
The new deputy director of the NSA, officials said, will be Rick Leggett, who has run the agency’s “Media Leaks Task Force,” which has been assessing the damage done by Edward J. Snowden, the former government contractor who obtained more than a million documents as a systems administrator in Hawaii.