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9/29/2010
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Army Awards $1.2 Billion NSA Data Center Contract

The facility to be built in Utah will support the agency's Comprehensive National Security Initiative, aimed at bolstering cybersecurity across federal agencies.




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The Army has awarded a $1.2 billion contract to a construction consortium to build a spacious new data center in Utah for the National Security Agency's (NSA's) cybersecurity effort.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it awarded the contract to Balfour Beatty/DPR/Big-D to erect a facility in Williams, Utah, that will be used for the NSA's Comprehensive National Security Initiative, the NSA said in an emailed statement.

The initiative is aimed at bolstering how the government protects federal computer networks from intrusion by hackers and rival nations that may want to access classified U.S. data. President George W. Bush launched the initiative in 2008 and the Obama administration has kept it in place.

Specifically, the data center will support the intelligence community's mission to provide foreign intelligence about cybersecurity threats to DoD networks, according to the NSA. It also will provide information-assurance support to those networks, which the NSA refers to as the "dot-mil" networks. The center will also provide technical assistance to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its mission of securing federal civilian networks, or the "dot-gov" networks, according to the NSA.

In its 2010 budget request, the NSA included information on its plan to build the data center. The agency said the data center will "be capable of Tier 3 reliability" with "power density…appropriate for current state-of-the- art high-performance computing devices and associated hardware architecture."

Even as the White House has put a moratorium on construction of new data centers for federal agencies and is asking them to significantly consolidate the ones they have, it is continuing to invest IT resources in priority areas like cybersecurity.

Indeed, as described by NSA Director General Keith Alexander at the Gov 2.0 Summit recently, federal networks are in need of more protection. 250,000 probes trying to find their way into Department of Defense networks every hour and cyber attacks on federal agencies have increased 150% since 2008, he said.

The new NSA data center -- located on the Camp Williams Army base in Williams, Utah -- will be built with 100,000 square feet of raised-floor data space and more than 900,000 square feet of technical support and administrative space, according to the Army. Another 500,000 square meters will go to support facilities, such as water-treatment and visitor-control centers. In total, the data center will encompass 1.5 million square meters, making it a sizeable facility.

It also apparently will be built in fairly swift fashion. The construction schedule is "aggressive," with the data center scheduled for completion 1,100 calendar days from "notice to proceed," according to the contract posted on FedBizOpps.

Specific facilities the contract calls for include basic utility infrastructure, electrical service, water, sewer and gas, as well as water-treatment facilities, a vehicle inspection facility, a visitor control center, perimeter site security measures, and fuel and water storage. The contract does not cover the development of IT networks for the facility, however.

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