Work commences on $1B NSA 'spy' center

Cyber intelligence data center reportedly will support the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broke ground this week on a massive new National Security Agency cyber intelligence center in Utah. Located at Camp Williams, 25 miles south of Salt Lake City, the $1.2 billion facility — officially known as the Utah Data Center — will be responsible for collecting and aggregating incoming intelligence data.

According to USACE, the center will have 100,000 square feet of raised-floor data center space and more than 900,000 square feet of technical support and administrative space. Support facilities will include an electrical substation, a vehicle inspection facility and visitor control center, fuel storage, water storage, and a chiller plant. Camp Williams is a National Guard training site operated by the Utah National Guard.

Nextgov reported that the facility will support the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which seeks to improve how the federal government defends sensitive data and agency networks from state- and nonstate-based threats. Nextgov also noted that, in 2009, national security officials said the Utah Data Center would support the intelligence community by helping collect foreign intelligence about cybersecurity threats and protecting Defense Department networks. The facility will also offer technical aid to the Homeland Security Department in defending the networks of civilian federal agencies.

The facility’s potential for cyber intelligence has already earned it the name Spy Center within the intelligence community, the Deseret News reported. Additionally, the Deseret News noted that the center, also known as the Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center, is the first of its kind for the U.S. intelligence community.

Speaking at this week’s groundbreaking ceremony, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, “Just as we defend our lands, America also needs to also defend our cyberspace. The data center will be part of our expanding efforts to defend our Department of Defense computer systems from cyberattack and will also pay a key role in helping [the Homeland Security Department] keep our government’s civilian computer systems safe.”

Hatch added that he began work on bringing the data center to his state in 2007. After consulting with senior members of the intelligence community, officials chose Camp Williams over 37 other potential sites for the facility in 2008.

According to the senator’s office, Hatch worked with congressional committees to ensure that the center was fully authorized and avoided any regulatory pitfalls. He told the Deseret News that he promoted Utah because of its affordable energy costs, Internet infrastructure, energetic software industry and the camp’s proximity to Salt Lake City International Airport.

USACE will construct a 1.5 million-square-foot facility on 200 acres inside Camp Williams. Hatch said the center will provide 5,000 to 10,000 construction jobs and employ 100 to 200 people when it opens.

According to Nextgov, power requirements are one of the reasons NSA looked West for its new facility. The center will need 65 megawatts, which can be more affordably accessed in Utah than at NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. The region’s ample power supply will also allow the agency to expand its facilities there, something that it cannot do in Maryland. Data Center Knowledge reported that NSA’s operations at Fort Meade have been constrained since 2006, when the agency maxed out the capacity of the Baltimore Gas and Electric power grid.

Nextgov noted that the center’s $1.2 billion cost does not include the price of hardware, data storage, software maintenance and secure communications systems, which could cost an additional $2 billion. The facility is scheduled to be completed by October 2013.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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