NSA, State in Senate sights
- By Dan Verton
- May 15, 2000
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
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
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
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.