Doing Business With National Security Agency/Central Security Service

General Info: NSA<@VM>The CIO file: La Forrest Williams

Evamarie's notebook

I was almost afraid I wouldn't have much to say about NSA ? at least without sounding like a dolt ? because everything seems so secret. No one knows even how much money it has to spend, though I'm sure it's a safe guess that it's a lot. This is why I am pleasantly surprised by NSA's Web site, which gives enough information about the agency to let one understand it without revealing any classified information. There are even explanations on the site as to why it can't tell you certain info. So if you would like to approach NSA with your business, definitely study the agency and use the Web site as a guide.

You might think with all the secrecy that it would be tough, if not impossible, to work with NSA without some kind of "in." You would be wrong. Right on the home page under the "business" section is a guide for Doing Business with NSA. ( There are step-by-step instructions for getting started down this road and a list of the areas in which NSA has business interests, among them cybersecurity and information assurance, biometrics and microelectronics. In this regard, NSA is like any other government agency, and it's interested in what large and small businesses alike can do for it.

Along the lines of doing business, the Information Assurance Directorate offers industry some cool opportunities. The directorate will test and evaluate commercial information assurance products, or partner with a company for independent research and development. It also offers an Information Assurance Training and Rating Program. For more information, check out the Information Assurance section of the Web site. (

Some history: NSA is a pioneer of sorts in modern computing. Its cryptanalytic research led to the first large-scale computer and the first solid-state computer. It led efforts in flexible storage capabilities, which led to development of the tape cassette and made gains in developing semiconductor technology. Today, NSA still leads in many technological fields.

Wonder what all those mathematicians are for? They have two missions at NSA: Design cipher systems to protect the integrity of U.S. information systems, and search for weaknesses in the systems and codes of our adversaries. And you thought all that algebra in school was for naught.

About that budget: NSA has a "black budget" that is an undisclosed amount of funds at its disposal. Although NSA doesn't reveal the size of its budget, the Web site said that NSA allegedly has claimed that if it were judged as a corporation, it would rank in the top 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

The director of NSA/CSS, in accordance with a Defense Department directive, must be a high-ranking military officer of at least three stars.

National Security Agency/Central Security Service

Fort Meade, Md. 20755


Founded: November 1952. CSS was established in 1972.

Leadership: Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, director of the National Security Agency, chief of the Central Security Service; William Black, deputy director, NSA

What it does: The official U.S. cryptologic organization, NSA coordinates, directs and performs specialized activities to protect the integrity of national communications systems and to seek information about adversaries' secret communications. It is one of the government's most important centers of foreign language analysis and research. It works closely with the Central Security Service to promote partnership between NSA and cryptologic elements of the armed forces.

Employees: This information is classified. Among its employees are analysts, engineers, physicists, linguists, computer scientists, researchers, security officers and administrative and clerical assistants. NSA says it's the largest employer of mathematicians in the United States, possibly the world. NSA announced in April that it was looking to hire 1,500 employees by September, and wanted to add 1,500 employees each year for the next five years.

Major subagencies: Information Assurance and Signal Intelligence appear to be more like branches than like subagencies.

Number crunching: NSA's budget is classified.

La Forrest Williams

Courtesy of NSA

Full title: Chief Information Officer, National Security Agency/Central Security Service

Took the job: March 3

Hometown: "I grew up in a large family in Oakland, California and enjoyed having lots of people around me."

Home now: "I'm living in the Northeast now, and I like that I'm still able to take advantage of the richness of having two large cities nearby."

Hobbies: "I play music at home on a couple of instruments, and I exercise. I'm also an avid reader."

Currently reading: "The 9/11 Commission Report: The Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States" "An important story that's very well-written."

Alma mater: Bachelor of science degree in business administration from California State University at San Jose; master of science degree in the technology of management from American University. Williams retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel.

WT: How has technology changed what your agency does or how it does it?

Williams: There's been a quantum leap in the volume, velocity and variety of global communications. NSA needs to respond by ensuring that information, expertise, tools and wisdom can quickly flow where they're needed. We're pursuing new technologies and models for sharing information and knowledge. We're enhancing our IT infrastructure to improve collaboration internally and across the intelligence community.

WT: What do you look for in companies with which you are thinking of doing business?

Williams: NSA recognizes and understands the importance of industry alliances to achieve its goals and objectives. NSA continues to broaden collaborative partnerships with industry in purchasing products and services that can help the agency stay on the cutting edge of technology while allowing us to focus our attention on our core missions.

WT: For a company that is new to working with the your agency and has something to offer you, where is a good place to start? What would you advise them?

Williams: Companies can register to do business with us on the Internet at, by going to the Acquisition Resource Center [ARC] in the business section. It's a business registry that provides our industry partners with a one-stop source for acquisition information.

Agency personnel and contractors also use the ARC as a market research tool and a way to distribute acquisition documents.

WT: A year from now, where do you see the agency's technology capabilities?

Williams: We're pursuing virtual private networks and multisecurity-level technologies to give us more agile network connectivity. We're also moving to an IT infrastructure that's more globally balanced, so we're investing in load leveling and fail-over capability to achieve that equity between remote locations and headquarters.

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