NSA, State in Senate sights

The Senate has outlined a plan to reverse years of budgetary neglect at the National Security Agency and what it characterized as blatant disregard for information security policies at the State Department in a report released May 4 on the fiscal 2001 intelligence authorization bill.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tagged the rebuilding of the National Security Agency — the premier provider of signals intelligence to the Pentagon and senior government policy-makers — as Congress' top priority. It also threatened to withhold funding from State if it does not take steps immediately to stem the growing tide of information security lapses at the department.

"The NSA systematically has sacrificed infrastructure modernization in order to meet day-to-day intelligence requirements," the committee concluded. "Consequently, the organization begins the 21st century lacking the technological infrastructure and human resources needed even to maintain the status quo, much less meet emerging challenges."

The NSA budget is classified, but the report stated that the committee plans to realign funding as a "down payment" to help the agency meets its future requirements.

Shortly after taking over as NSA director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden called for "100 Days of Change" at the agency [FCW, Dec. 6, 1999]. The move came after a group of NSA managers wrote a scathing report in October that depicted an agency mired in bureaucratic conflict, suffering from poor leadership and losing touch with the government clients it serves.

Although increases in infrastructure investments at NSA would enhance the intelligence community's ability to find secrets, Congress also is concerned about information security lapses at the State Department, including missing laptops.

The committee proposes sweeping information security reforms throughout State's intelligence and counterintelligence organizations, including limiting the department's authority to store certain types of classified materials.

If passed into law, the bill would require the director of Central Intelligence (DCI) to certify that all State classified information-handling procedures comply with DCI directives before intelligence information can be shared with the department. The bill also threatens to withhold funding from State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research if certain elements of the agency are not certified.

The committee's action comes one month after the disappearance of several laptops belonging to State Department employees. At least one laptop, which State officials have presumed stolen, is known to have contained highly classified information on weapons proliferation.

A State Department source said part of the new policy will transfer responsibility for safeguarding top-secret code-word information from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research to State's Diplomatic Security branch.


"Senate sheds light on State security problems" [FCW.com, May 10, 2000]

"NSA's privacy pledges not enough for some in Congress" [FCW.com, March 1, 2000]

"NSA playing IT catch-up" [Federal Computer Week, Dec. 6, 1999]

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

BY Dan Verton
May 15, 2000

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