NSA will fine-tune data dissemination

The National Security Agency is transforming the way its employees listen in on enemies. The agency isn't changing its ears but aims to improve the way it digests what it hears.

Through the Trailblazer project, NSA will modernize its Signals Intelligence program, a spokesperson said. The agency will fine-tune its ability to process massive amounts of intelligence data from e-mail messages, phone conversations, faxes and other communications it collects around the world.

The agency gathers data every day from its 'listening posts,' systems that intercept enemy communications. NSA expects Trailblazer to avoid problems such as the one the agency experienced two years ago. In early 2000, the agency was so flooded with data that its computers shut down for nearly four days.

The details of Trailblazer are classified. But the NSA spokesperson said that the in-house project will take technological advancements and combine them with top-level program management, systems engineering and sound acquisition practice to "modernize the NSA mission of providing foreign signals intelligence."

Contract to Conquest

Early last month, NSA awarded a $140 million contract for Trailblazer to Conquest Inc. of Annapolis Junction, Md. The contract, which ends in August 2005, is a follow-on to a five-year, $57 million contract Conquest won last year that provides systems engineering and support to several initiatives to help NSA modernize its signals intelligence systems.

Under the Trailblazer contract, Conquest will help NSA define and test systems for processing the agency's foreign signals intelligence.

Conquest and subcontractor Boeing Co. will build an architecture for several NSA programs.
Under the contract, Conquest will provide systems engineering and integration, program management and technical assistance support for Trailblazer.

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