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Director, National Security Agency

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Usually called DIRNSA, the Director, National Security Agency commands the National Security Agency, and is a serving military officer, normally of three-star rank (lieutenant general or vice admiral). Occupying the same physical body is the Chief, Central Security Service, who has authority over the military services' information security and signals intelligence units.

In 2010, the Director added a "third hat" commanding United States Cyber Command. General Keith Alexander was promoted to four-star general with that appointment, and the position will probably remain at four-star level.

While DIRNSAs most often retired with three stars, an increasing number have gone on to four, starting with ADM Noel Gayler. The DIRNSA has a civilian deputy, who is a civilian, often a career employee, an executive staff, and then two principal chiefs, one for signals intelligence and the other for information security.

The Director is based at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, roughly halfway between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD -- actually, closer to Baltimore. It is a compromise location; the original plan was to move it outside the Washington area so a single nuclear blast could not wipe out all of the United States intelligence community. A combination of the refusal of a large part of the professional staff to relocate, coupled with the brilliant realization that an enemy able to deliver one nuclear weapon could probably deliver several, such as on NSA, the Pentagon Building, the White House, Central Intelligence Agency headquarters, etc.