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Information Intelligence Collage       The National Security Agency (NSA)  

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The National Security Agency (NSA) is the nation’s cryptologic organization and as such, coordinates, directs, and performs highly specialized activities to produce foreign intelligence information and protect US information systems. A high-technology organization, NSA is on the frontiers of communications and information technology. NSA is also one of the most important centers of foreign language analysis and research within the US Government.

The Agency is completely dedicated to this business and therefore the entire organization is considered to be a Community member.

NSA’s Contribution to Intelligence
NSA has two strategic missions:

  • To exploit foreign signals for national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes—a capability called signals intelligence or SIGINT.

  • To provide solutions, products and services, and conduct defensive information operations, to achieve information assurance for information infrastructures critical to US national security interests—a capability referred to as information assurance or IA.

National Security Agency collage

Mission Statement: The ability to understand the secret communications of our foreign adversaries while protecting our own communications -- a capability in which the United States leads the world -- gives our nation a unique advantage.

Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is a unique discipline with a long and storied past. SIGINT's modern era dates to World War II, when the U.S. broke the Japanese military code and learned of plans to invade Midway Island. This intelligence allowed the U.S. to defeat Japan's superior fleet. The use of SIGINT is believed to have directly contributed to shortening the war by at least one year. Today, SIGINT continues to play an important role in maintaining the superpower status of the United States.

As the world becomes more and more technology-oriented, the Information Assurance (IA) mission becomes increasingly challenging. This mission involves protecting all classified and sensitive information that is stored or sent through U.S. Government equipment. IA professionals go to great lengths to make certain that Government systems remain impenetrable. This support spans from the highest levels of U.S. Government to the individual warfighter in the field.

NSA conducts one of the U.S. Government's leading research and development programs. Some of the Agency's R&D projects have significantly advanced the state of the art in the scientific and business worlds. NSA's early interest in cryptanalytic research led to the first large-scale computer and the first solid-state computer, predecessors to the modern computer. NSA pioneered efforts in flexible storage capabilities, which led to the development of the tape cassette. NSA also made ground-breaking developments in semiconductor technology and remains a world leader in many technological fields.

Who is the NSA?
NSA employs the country's premier codemakers and codebreakers. It is said to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the United States and perhaps the world. Its mathematicians contribute directly to the two missions of the Agency: designing cipher systems that will protect the integrity of U.S. information systems and searching for weaknesses in adversaries' systems and codes.

Technology and the world change rapidly, and great emphasis is placed on staying ahead of these changes with employee training programs. The National Cryptologic School is indicative of the Agency's commitment to professional development. The school not only provides unique training for the NSA workforce, but it also serves as a training resource for the entire Department of Defense. NSA sponsors employees for bachelor and graduate studies at the Nation's top universities and colleges, and selected Agency employees attend the various war colleges of the U.S. Armed Forces.

NSA was established by Presidential directive in 1952 to provide signals intelligence and communications security activities of the Government. Since then, the NSA has gained the responsibility for information systems security and operations security training. The Central Security Service (CSS) was established in 1972 to provide cryptologic activities within the military and thereby a more unified DoD cryptologic effort. The NSA/CSS is also a combat support agency of the DoD.

The NSA Work Force. Most NSA/CSS employees, both civilian and military, are headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, centrally located between Baltimore and Washington, DC. The NSA work force consists of highly talented military and civilian members with a wide array of skills and expertise: mathematicians, physicists, cryptanalysts, intelligence analysts, linguists, computer scientists, and engineers. This work force, combined with NSA’s nationwide strategic alliance with a consortium of contractors and academia, has been the key to all past successes and remains the foundation for the future.

Emerging Challenges. NSA continues to be challenged by an increasingly dynamic set of customer demands: transnational terrorism, narcotics trafficking, organized crime, counterintelligence, alien smuggling, asymmetric threats, and international disputes. Our military forces are more likely to be involved in coalition warfare, regional conflicts, peacekeeping operations, and nontraditional operations than in the past. At the same time, the rapid and unfettered growth of global information technology makes both of the Agency’s missions harder—and more important—than ever. To meet these emerging challenges, NSA has embarked on an ambitious corporate strategy to transform its operations to a service-based architecture that includes a re-engineered cryptologic system with interoperability across the Community and common connectivity with customers. This mandate for change firmly establishes SIGINT and IA as major contributors in ensuring information superiority of US warfighters and policymakers.

A Proud Tradition, a Bright Future. The National Security Agency has a proud tradition of serving the nation. NSA has been credited with preventing or significantly shortening military conflicts, thereby saving lives of US military and civilian personnel. NSA gives the nation a decisive edge in diplomatic and economic interactions with other nations, for countering terrorism, and for helping stem the flow of narcotics into our country. NSA has been a premier information agency of the industrial age, and, through ongoing modernization and cutting edge research, will continue to be a premiere knowledge agency of the information age.


Links to Related Information

NSA’s Web Site

What's New at NSA

Kids' Page

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page last updated:  August 16, 2005