Air Force general is reportedly in line to replace departing director of NSA

Candidate has worked as spy and diplomat

February 19, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

The National Security Agency's director, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, will leave his post March 15, ending a three-year tour highlighted by substantial changes in how one of Maryland's largest employers hires, promotes and retires its workers.

The leading candidate to succeed Minihan is another Air Force general, Maj. Gen. Michael Hayden, the deputy chief of staff for the United Nations Command in Korea and a longtime intelligence officer.

NSA, based in Anne Arundel County, declined to confirm Hayden's selection, but Pentagon sources and congressional staffers said Hayden will be named to the post when he is promoted from a two-star to a three-star general. The Senate Armed Forces Committee is scheduled to take up his promotion soon.

President Clinton would then forward Hayden's name to the full Senate for confirmation.

Hayden, 52, is a 32-year Air Force veteran who has served in posts around the world and at the top levels of the Pentagon. His service record resembles Minihan's. Both men entered the military through the ROTC program, and both served as commanders of the Air Force's spying machine, the Air Intelligence Agency, an affiliate of NSA.

In recent years, Hayden has become more diplomat than spy. As the top U.N. official in Korea, he has led negotiations between North and South Korean delegations on conflicts between the two countries.

That experience could serve him well at NSA, where budget battles and employment disputes have become complicated.

Since 1996, NSA has been under orders from Congress to trim its work force -- estimated to be about 20,000, though the exact number is confidential -- by 18 percent. That led to the creation of early-retirement programs.

Downsizing conflicts with NSA's efforts to create a more diversified work force. The Pentagon has ordered NSA to increase the number of minorities and women that it hires and promotes.

Observers say Minihan has made headway. As of January, women made up 40 percent of the work force, and minorities 13.22 percent, according to the agency. Five years ago, women made up 36 percent of the work force and minorities 11 percent, according to the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, which criticized NSA in 1996 for its poor record of hiring and promoting women and minorities.

In the past two years, slightly more than half of all promotions went to women.

"I think Minihan has done a pretty good job overall," said Emile Henault Jr., a former NSA worker and now a lawyer in Glen Burnie who represents NSA employees. "He's put more women in higher spots than anyone so far."

Typically, the top NSA job rotates among the Air Force, Army and Navy. It's unclear why the Air Force would take the helm twice in a row. NSA directors normally serve three- or four-year terms.

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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