NSA to build $1.5B cybersecurity center near Salt Lake City

Facility will support Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative

The National Security Agency (NSA) is setting up a new $1.5 billion cybersecurity data center at the Utah National Guard's Camp Williams near Salt Lake City.

At 1 million square feet, the center will form the hub of the highly-classified Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) launched during the Bush Administration.

It is not clear, though, whether that is the only purpose that the new data center will serve, or whether it will support other NSA cybersecurity activities.

News of the planned center was announced on Friday by Glenn Gaffney, NSA's deputy director of national intelligence for collection, during an address to lawmakers at the Utah state capitol. Joining him at the announcement were Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Sens. Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah), and Bob Bennett, (R-Utah).

In an e-mailed comment, an NSA spokeswoman said the new center will provide "critical support to national cybersecurity priorities" but did not elaborate. A statement released by Hatch's office said the facility would add "important capabilities" to the intelligence community and provide technical assistance to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 people will be employed during the construction and development of the data center. The facility itself will employ between 100 and 200 people when fully operational.

Camp Williams was one among 38 sites being considered for the data center.

The multi-billion-dollar CNCI effort was publicly disclosed in early 2008 and is designed to bolster cybersecurity-related awareness and incident response across the federal government. Much of the effort remains highly classified, to the chagrin of many security analysts and lawmakers who have asked for greater transparency.

But some details of the project are known. One of them being that federal agencies are making an effort to reduce their exposure to Internet-based threats by reducing and consolidating the number of external Internet connections across government. Instead of having each agency manage its own Internet connections, the plan is to have a small group of so-called Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) providers administer centralized connectivity and gateway-monitoring services for federal agencies.

The goal of the TIC initiative is to reduce the number of Internet connections across government from more than 4,300 to about 100 by the end of this year.

Another CNCI project involves revamping a government network monitoring system called Einstein to improve the ability of federal agencies to detect and respond to network-borne threats far more quickly than is now possible.

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