WASHINGTON, March 28 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday the cyberspace force at U.S. Cyber Command will grow to more than 6,000 by the year 2016.
Hagel disclosed plan while addressing the retirement ceremony of General Keith Alexander, the outgoing head of U.S. Cyber Command and of the controversial National Security Agency (NSA), at the NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
The cyber capabilities require dedicated professionals, Hagel said, and Alexander has been recruiting and training the cyberspace force at the Cyber Command.
"In 2016, that force should number 6,000 professionals who, with the close support of National Security Agency, will be integrated with our combatant commands around the world," said Hagel. "Continuing General Alexander's work to build this cyber force will remain one of DOD's top priorities."
The force would expand President Barack Obama's options with " full-spectrum cyber capabilities that can complement other military assets," he added.
Hagel also praised Alexander's service, especially his tenure of more than eight years at the helm of the NSA and his duties as Commander of the Cyber Command since May, 2010.
"As the longest-serving director of NSA, General Alexander has led this agency through countless intelligence breakthrough and successes. He's also led NSA through one of the most challenging periods in its history, in our history."
It was announced in October 2013 that General Alexander and one of his deputies, were leaving the NSA. The announcement came four months after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of the agency's secret surveillance programs, which have triggered huge controversy and fury at home and abroad.