President Biden has nominated Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh to lead the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, an Air Force official confirmed Tuesday to CBS News.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haugh, currently the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, would receive a promotion to four-star general and take the reins of the dual hat position.
However, Haugh’s nomination, like hundreds of others so far, could run into delays in the Senate.
Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who is on the Armed Forces Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has been blocking military nominations. He has said he is holding the nominations to protest the Pentagon’s recent policy covering certain travel expenses for service members based in states with restrictive abortion laws who need to seek an abortion.
A spokesperson for Tuberville confirmed his hold would apply to Haugh’s nomination as well.
So far, more than 200 nominations are pending, and that number could grow. To get around the block, the Senate could vote for each nominee on the floor individually, but that would take a significant amount of time.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley warned in congressional testimony earlier this month the impact of the hold “is pretty significant.”
“From a readiness standpoint, these are — these are flag officers so they’re in charge of very large, complex organizations. And this is unsettling for the institution. And it will have over time, I think, a significant degradation in readiness, in capability, morale,” Milley said.
Politico first reported Haugh’s nomination.
If confirmed, Haugh will replace Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, who has led U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA since 2018. Nakasone, who played a key role overseeing cyber operations to protect multiple U.S. elections from foreign interference, is expected to depart later this year.
Nakasone also oversaw the launch of a new Cybersecurity Collaboration Center at NSA, designed to boost cooperation between the government and private sector as both have grappled with massive cyber incursions and damaging ransomware attacks.
The change atop NSA comes as the agency pushes for congressional reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), under which U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are allowed to collect, through telecommunications providers, electronic data like emails, phone calls and text messages. The provision expires at the end of this year.
Critics of Section 702 say it has been misused to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens, whose data can be swept up by the program if they are in touch with foreign targets. National security officials argue it is critical in cybersecurity, counterintelligence and counterterrorism matters; Nakasone has called it “the #1 authority that we need.”
Representatives for the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Haugh’s nomination.