Air Force general to head NSA

Clinton nominates Hayden as director of intelligence agency

February 24, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

President Clinton has nominated Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Hayden as the director of the Fort Meade-based National Security Agency, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

Hayden is a 32-year Air Force veteran and a longtime intelligence officer. He is stationed in Korea as deputy chief of staff for the United Nations Command, where he has led negotiations between North and South Korean delegations.

Hayden, 52, will replace Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, who will end his three-year tour at the agency March 15.

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen also announced yesterday that Hayden would be promoted from a major general to a lieutenant general. The promotion and Hayden's nomination to the NSA must be confirmed by the Senate.

Hayden is to take over an agency that is one of Maryland's largest employers but has been struggling since 1996 to trim 18 percent of its work force. Efforts to nudge employees into early retirement or private-sector jobs have created turmoil inside NSA's mirrored-glass headquarters. NSA, whose main job is to eavesdrop on the electronic communications of foreign nations and to break codes, has also been trying to expand its mission in recent years, in part by helping protect the nation's computer networks against hackers and so-called cyber terrorists.

Making computer systems more secure was one of Hayden's goals when he was commander of the Air Force's spy machine, the Air Intelligence Agency, an affiliate of NSA. In his current job, Hayden erased sensitive information from U.N. Web sites.

"Maps of our installations are probably not a good thing to have on our home page," Hayden said in December at a conference on military communications.

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 for three or four years.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon praised departing director Minihan yesterday for "implementing a national cryptologic strategy for the 21st century and looking at ways to keep our code or cryptologic architecture at the state-of-the-art level."

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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