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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel encourages caution in conducting cyber war. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that the Pentagon will exercise restraint in use of its cyber warfare capabilities and urged other countries to do the same.

“The United States does not seek to militarize cyberspace,” Hagel said in remarks at a ceremony to mark the retirement of Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who headed both the civilian National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command.

Alexander headed the agency during a time of unprecedented public criticism following disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that revealed the government’s collection of “metadata.”

Alexander “led NSA through one of the most challenging periods in its history,” Hagel said. “And he did so with a fierce, but necessary determination to develop and protect tools vital to our national security.”

Hagel pledged to be open with the public as the Pentagon pressed ahead with efforts to develop its cyber capabilities.

“We will continue to engage in a more open dialogue with the American public,” Hagel said in remarks at Fort Meade, Md., where the NSA and Cyber Command are headquartered.

In that spirit, Hagel pointed out that the ceremony was the first live broadcast from the headquarters of the secretive agency.

The Pentagon has developed both offensive and defensive capabilities in cyber space, but Hagel said it will be cautious in how those capabilities are employed.

The Pentagon “will maintain an approach of restraint to any cyber operations outside of U.S. government networks,” Hagel said. “We are urging other nations to do the same.”

The Pentagon has increased spending for cyber operations, and Cyber Command expects to have a force of 6,000 warriors by 2016.

Adm. Michael Rogers has been chosen by the White House to replace Alexander as head of both agencies.

Follow @jimmichaels on Twitter.

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