In the Tank: It’s Time to Divorce the NSA from Cyber Command

Welcome to “In the Tank,” Defense One’s weekly think tank roundup. Every week, we’ll present the latest research and commentary published by think tanks from around the world on defense, national security, foreign policy, technology, and management. If you’d like to submit your latest research, or articles, email Kedar Pavgi at webmaster@defenseone.com.


It’s Time to Divorce the NSA from Cyber Command
(Ret.) Adm. James Stavridis and Dave Weinstein
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, U.S. CYBERCOM

With the announced departure of Gen. Keith Alexander, the Obama administration should use the opportunity to “dissolve the marriage” between the NSA and Cyber Command to bolster both organization’s capabilities, argues (Ret.) Adm. James Stavridis and CYBERCOM strategist Dave Weinstein. Currently, Gen. Alexander is dual-hatted as the head of the NSA and the commanding general of CYBERCOM — and Stavridis and Weinstein say that this arrangement comes at the detriment of both organizations. CYBERCOM, being the younger of the two organizations, frequently found itself “on the short end of appropriations, personnel, intellectual capital, and technical capacity,” and the NSA frequently found itself needing a single person to drive the agency. “There is, indeed, an overlap between military and intelligence missions in cyberspace,” Stavridis and Weinstein write. “But it was a mistake to assume that [either] would complement, rather than impede, each other.”

Is This Post-War Drawdown Different?
Todd Harrison
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

“If the Department reduces end strength in proportion to prior drawdowns, roughly one third or more, end strength would fall below 1 million for the first time since 1940,” writes Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. While a budgetary drawdown also includes cuts in both procurement and research spending, the current drawdown has seen research money already fall “more than in all previous downturns,” and further cuts would mean delays in new programs and development schedules. Harrison also predicts personnel health and benefit costs grow as a significant budgetary factor. He says that “other increases in military compensation costs, such as new and expanded benefits and healthcare, are not automatically reversible in a downturn and may drive additional growth in the coming years as the cost of providing these benefits continues to grow.”

America Can Still Salvage Its Relationship With Saudi Arabia
Simon Henderson
Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Even though the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has taken a steep dive in the past week, speedy outreach by America’s diplomats “may help defuse the situation” between Washington and Riyadh, says the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Simon Henderson. Although the U.S. ambassador recently returned state-side from a visit to Saudi Arabia, Henderson says the Obama administration should immediately “dispatch a team of high level officials” back to the region. “One place to start is the U.N., where protocol was thrown into confusion by the Security Council seat rejection,” Henderson says. The Council’s new term begins on Jan. 1, so the Obama administration has limited time to work with the Saudis.  “Indeed, given the range of issues that a Saudi policy shift could affect, it is important that Washington act promptly to ameliorate or dispel some of Riyadh’s recent threats,” Henderson writes.