Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Visit to the Inner Sanctum

Last night I attended a State and Local Partner reception at the National Security Agency campus at Fort Meade. The invitation suggested that I arrive at 4:30 PM for the 5:00 PM reception “to pass through the check-in process.”

I needed every bit of those thirty minutes. Guests, who were required to register well in advance and provide some cursory security information, had to pass through three checkpoints with armed guards before parking their cars. Once inside the OPS 2B building we were escorted in groups the short distance to the reception room while even more guards stood at each corridor along the way to keep anyone from wandering off.

The event was put on by the Fort Meade Alliance, a “non-profit independent community membership organization created to promote and support Fort George G. Meade, its 80+ government agencies and organizations and surrounding areas as an economic asset, to promote the well being of the region with programs that support FGGM priorities, and serve as a resource to help facilitate connections that make a difference.”

The event was limited to 400 attendees and was completely sold out within six hours. There were at least another 200 people on the waiting list.

The meeting was largely a networking opportunity for the business community serving NSA but the politicos were there as well. Congressman John Sarbanes, State Senator Jim Robey and Delegate Warren Miller were all in attendance.

General Keith Alexander, the head of NSA and the newly created cyber command welcomed the assembled group and quipped that he was selected to lead the cyber command “because he already had an office.”

He said that when the cyber command “stands up” this fall it will already have 1,100 people in place at the fort and that while much of the mission of the cyber command is classified, he could say that it is “huge.” I wrote that down. It reminded me a business outreach symposium that NSA sponsored about five years ago where they showed an escalating bar graph without data points. We were told those were classified too.
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