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NSA Breaks Ground On $1.2 Billion Cybersecurity Center

The National Security Agency data center will protect both military and civilian government systems, and possibly private sector critical infrastructure.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The National Security Agency (NSA) has broken ground on a $1.2 billion data center at Camp Williams, a National Guard base south of Salt Lake City.

Officials kicked off the construction of the data center, which will be used for cybersecurity, in a ceremony Thursday. NSA will be the lead agency at the data center, though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be involved as well. While officials have thus far been largely quiet about the exact role for the new data center, it will help protect both military and civilian government systems, according to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"Just as we defend our lands -- America also needs to also defend our cyberspace," he said in a statement. "The Data Center will be part of our expanding efforts to defend our Department of Defense computer systems from cyber attack, and will also play a key role in helping Homeland Security keep our government's civilian computer systems safe."

It's possible the facility will also help protect private sector critical infrastructure networks, as hinted by NSA deputy director John Inglis in a press release. "There is a clear mandate for a public-private partnership -- led on the government side by DHS -- but supported by all elements of the U.S. government, to include federal, state, and local organizations," he said.

The new facility will be a largely self-contained operation, complete with its own water and sewer systems, an electrical substation, and defenses like vehicle inspection and a visitor control center. The data center itself will utilize 100,000 square feet of raised floor space on the 240-acre site.

The project isn't just important to cybersecurity; it's also a provider of jobs in a down economy. Officials estimate that construction and development -- expected to be completed by October 2013 -- will require between 5,000 and 10,000 employees. Initially, the project had been slated to be operational by June 2012.

Hatch had pushed for the data center to be built in Utah since 2007, and Camp Williams beat out 37 other sites as the final location. The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the construction contract to a joint venture led by industrial builders Big-D Construction, DPR Construction, and Balfour Beatty Construction, in September 2010.

The Utah site was chosen for its access to cheap power, communications infrastructure, and availability of space, officials have said. Other factors in Camp Williams' favor were a local population with higher than average foreign language proficiency and a nearby international airport.

The data center, once complete, will permanently employ between 100 and 200 people. Some of the jobs may require the high-tech workers to be proficient in multiple languages.

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