If confirmed, Haugh will replace Gen. Paul Nakasone, who has led both NSA and Cyber Command since 2018. Nakasone is planning to step down sometime this year.
While the Senate unanimously confirmed Haugh to his current post last year, he may face a bumpy road to confirmation now, given that Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has placed a hold on all Defense Department nominations in protest of the agency’s abortion travel policy.
A spokesperson for Tuberville confirmed to POLITICO that Tuberville’s hold will include Haugh’s nomination, noting that it applies to “all civilian and general/flag officer nominations.”
Haugh, who had been generally expected to get the nod, has been involved in the Pentagon’s cyber efforts for years. He previously led the Sixteenth Air Force, or Air Force Cyber, and also served in stints as the director of Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force and as the agency’s director of intelligence.
Spokespeople for Cyber Command, the NSA and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that the committee, which along with the Senate Armed Services Committee has jurisdiction over the confirming Haugh, has not yet received the nomination.
Compared with Nakasone, Haugh has kept a low profile on Capitol Hill. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and leading cyber policy advocate, said earlier this month that he “doesn’t know Haugh well,” and that he would have preferred for Nakasone to stay in the position.
Nakasone’s planned resignation comes at a tough time for the Pentagon, as he’s poised to leave at the same time as the majority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leaving a major gap in defense leadership.
Nakasone’s four-year term leading NSA and Cyber Command ran out last year, and he was asked to stay on for a further year. Nakasone commands broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and has led on issues including securing U.S. election against foreign interference, along with supporting Ukrainian cyber operations in its war with Russia.