The White House is nearing a decision on splitting up the eavesdropping National Security Agency and US Cyber Command, which conducts cyberwarfare, a proposed reform prompted in part by revelations of the NSA's widespread snooping, individuals briefed on the matter say.
As part of the emerging plan, the NSA likely would get a civilian director for the first time in its 61-year history. Both agencies are now headed by the same person, Army General Keith Alexander, who is retiring in March as the NSA's longest-serving director.
NSA monitors phone, email and other communications for national security threats. Cyber Command defends Pentagon and other US computer networks, infiltrates adversaries' networks and conducts offensive cyberwarfare.
A White House spokeswoman said a final decision had not been made. "With General Alexander's planned departure next spring, this is a natural point to look at this question to ensure we are appropriately postured to address current and future security needs," she said.
One official said that it was possible a decision could come soon and could be made public simultaneously with the results of White House reviews of NSA activities prompted by disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.