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Promotion of General Keith Alexander/Activation of CYBERCOM

As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, National Security Agency, Ft. Meade MD, Friday, May 21, 2010

 Thank you, General Chilton, and thank you all for being here.  Today I have two very welcome – and very overdue – tasks: promoting General Keith Alexander to his fourth star and activating the new organization he is about to command.

I’m glad that Keith’s wife Debbie and their extended family – who have turned out in force –could join us.  Thank you for the sacrifices you have all made in order to support Keith over the course of an impressive career spanning more than three decades.  

In the military as elsewhere, the reward for a job well done is generally more work.  That is certainly true of General Alexander and the additional task he is being given today.  Setting up a new command is always a challenging undertaking, even more so for a domain such as cyberspace, where roles, missions, and org charts are still being defined.  The precedent set by the first commander will forever shape the organization.  I am grateful to have as capable and versatile an officer as Keith to assume this role.

 My confidence in General Alexander comes from his long record of success in many aspects of military intelligence.  This includes posts as:

  • Deputy director for requirements,  capabilities, assessments, and doctrine for the Joint Chiefs;
  •  CENTCOM director of intelligence; and
  • Deputy chief of staff of the Army for intelligence.

 He also possesses an impressive intellectual pedigree, having earned advanced degrees in business administration, systems technology and electronic warfare, physics, and national security strategy.

Since 2005, General Alexander has ably led the National Security Agency, transforming the organization from its Cold War posture so that it is capable of meeting diverse, unconventional, and ever-changing threats.  NSA has taken on this institutional shift while admirably executing the day-to-day responsibilities it must shoulder in a time of war.

General Alexander has the experience, the expertise, and the agility to lead CYBERCOM to success.  And success in the coming years is critical.  Our nation as a whole has become ever more dependent on computer systems and networks – and so has our military.  The intelligence, logistics, weapons technologies, and other capabilities we have gained are enormous, and critical to maintaining U.S. military supremacy.

However, there is no avoiding the fact that our expanded networks, with their wealth of sensitive information, present numerous tempting targets to our enemies, strategic rivals, and criminal organizations.  Those who could never hope to challenge the United States by conventional means can, at a relatively low cost, seek vulnerabilities in the vast amount of cyber territory we must defend.  

By establishing CYBERCOM, we put a single military commander in charge of monitoring and defending this virtual theater, just as other commanders bear responsibility for geographic theaters.  The purpose and jurisdiction of this command is clear:  to defend the military’s operational networks against attacks.  Overcoming the wider cyber threat to America’s economy and society will require a whole-of-government approach, with CYBERCOM in a supporting role.  As such, General Alexander will coordinate this command’s efforts the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the NSA, and other stakeholders.  

Finally, let me close by taking a moment to thank all those at NSA and elsewhere in the intelligence community for what they do every day to protect our country.  As a former Director of Central Intelligence, I fully understand and appreciate the challenges you face and the battles you fight in the shadows to keep our nation safe.

General Alexander, congratulations on your promotion, and good luck.  Thank you.

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