At NSA, mum's the word on Groundbreaker's details

The National Security Agency's award of a 10-year contract potentially worth more than $2 billion to Computer Sciences Corp. for management of non-mission-critical systems ended a bidding period that lasted more than a year.

But uncertainty remains about many aspects of the program, known as Project Groundbreaker, such as the fate of some NSA workers and how information on the program will be provided to the public.

Under the contract, control of NSA's telephony, distributed computing, enterprise management and networks shifts from agency employees to the CSC team. CSC will manage the agency's desktop PC operations, general-purpose processing, e-mail, information technology support, telecommunications, and enterprise and security management.

No one to ask

NSA is keeping a tight rein on the information that is released. On Aug. 2, CSC scheduled Tom Robinson, the head of domestic outsourcing, to answer media inquiries, only to suddenly cancel interviews later that day on the suggestion of NSA, according to a communications assistant at CSC.

'There will be a lot of political infighting,' said John Pescatore, an NSA analyst and research director for Internet security with Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn. Pescatore worked at NSA in the late 1970s and has closely studied the Groundbreaker contract.

'I think we will see it spread,' he said.

Pescatore predicted that the infighting would also affect the 750 displaced workers at NSA, as well as other intelligence agencies, which will be watching how the work proceeds with a critical eye, he said.

NSA is providing financial incentives to CSC to hire all of the displaced workers. CSC said in a press release that when it takes over the agency's services fully in November, the company would retain the employees to work with the Eagle Alliance, as the CSC-led team is called.

If the contractor does not hire some employees, NSA will find jobs for them within the agency, an NSA spokesman said.

Pescatore said it would be highly unlikely for all the employees to get jobs with CSC.

'I doubt that 100 percent of those employees will end up working for the Groundbreaker team,' Pescatore said.

'A large percentage of existing employees are offered jobs they don't want or they're offered jobs they can't handle,' he said, referring to similar outsourcing contracts. 'I think it'll be a high percentage.'

How will it fly?

In a written statement, CSC said the outsourcing contract could be worth $5 billion or more if the scope of the work is expanded as anticipated.

CSC's partners include ACS Defense Inc. of Burlington, Mass.; BTG Inc. of Fairfax, Va.; CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va.; Compaq Computer Corp.; Fiber Plus Inc. of Jessup, Md.; General Dynamics Corp.; Keane Inc. of Boston; Omen Inc. of Annapolis Junction, Md.; Logicon Inc. of Herndon, Va., a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp.; Superior Communications Inc. of Tuckahoe, N.Y.; TRW Inc.; and Verizon Communications Inc.

The other vendors who competed for the Groundbreaker contract were AT&T Corp. and OAO Corp. of Greenbelt, Md.

The contract will let NSA 'refocus assets on the agency's core missions of providing foreign signals intelligence and protecting U.S. national security-related information systems by turning over several information technology infrastructure services for industry's purview,' said Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, NSA's director.

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