National Security Agency takes on IT transformation via outsourcing

'We meet every month at the senior level and go over metrics and see if we are where we should be. We have a lot of dependence on platforms we need to get away from.'

'Richard G. Turner, NSA CIO

National Security Agency CIO Richard G. Turner put on a new hat after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In an instant, he became a 'wartime CIO,' called on to orchestrate 'a much more heightened operation,' Turner said at a Federal Sources Inc. breakfast last month.

'It's a very interesting and exhilarating time,' Turner said. 'We had to develop a sustained crisis tempo.'

'At the same time,' Turner added, 'we did not stop transformation.'

NSA gave its transformation effort an even bigger push after Sept. 11, Turner said. The agency wants to operate more like a business by pushing outsourcing and increasing its use of IT. The agency must modernize its systems and processes to save money and help employees work faster and smarter, Turner said.

Last fall, 700 IT workers at NSA took jobs with companies in the Eagle Alliance, a consortium charged with taking over many IT operations at NSA as part of an initiative known as Project Groundbreaker. Computer Sciences Corp. is the lead contractor on the 10-year, $2 billion outsourcing deal.

The contract shifts to the alliance all telephony, distributed computing, enterprise management and network management of non-mission-critical systems.

CSC will manage the agency's desktop PC operations, e-mail, IT support, telecommunications, and enterprise and security management.

Officials said the move to outsource so much of NSA's IT infrastructure lets the agency concentrate on its core missions: to break military codes, exploit targeted communications abroad and protect U.S. information systems.

Consolidate and collaborate

NSA plans to consolidate its server infrastructure to centralize operations and improve collaboration among its workers. The agency currently uses systems running either Unix or Microsoft Windows NT, but Turner said NSA will decide on one OS for all its information systems.

'We meet every month at the senior level and go over metrics and see if we are where we should be,' Turner said. 'We have a lot of dependence on platforms we need to get away from.'

NSA hopes its transformation effort will bring escalating IT costs under control and enhance security by establishing a more modern enterprise infrastructure. Turner said he wants NSA to adopt a centralized approach to rid the agency of its stovepiped systems.

Congressional oversight is helping NSA stay on the road to transformation. NSA's Legislative Affairs Office has daily contact with congressional committees.

'We have received congressional funding support since we initiated the modernization efforts in 1999,' an agency representative said.

'Members and staffers have acknowledged the monumental task that we have undertaken and continue to offer guidance and encouragement as we build a system that is more responsive to a rapidly changing technological environment.'

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