NSA may expand outsourcing

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"Breaking the mold"

The National Security Agency's outsourcing efforts likely will not end with the $5 billion Groundbreaker project.

The agency might expand Groundbreaker to make it a global effort, and NSA will continue studying other areas for potential outsourcing, according to Harry Gatanas, the agency's senior acquisition executive. Only the agency's core mission areas are "off the table," he said.

As the signals intelligence arm of the Pentagon's intelligence apparatus, NSA is responsible for intercepting and analyzing a vast array of foreign military and national security-related communications worldwide.

Groundbreaker is a 10-year, $5 billion first step toward bringing the agency's Cold War-era information infrastructure into the 21st century. It will make one contractor responsible for most of the agency's internal computer systems, including telephone services; desktop computing hardware, software and support services; and information technology security. It includes the online storage capacity equal to the Library of Congress, enough cabling to connect the east and west coasts of the United States, and computational power of the combined power of BellSouth Corp. and Sprint.

"Groundbreaker is truly big. It's going very well," Gatanas said. "We're in source selection right now. Our publicized contract award date is July. We'll try to make that sooner, if possible. Eventually, we'll want to take Groundbreaker global." Three teams led by OAO Corp., Computer Sciences Corp. and AT&T are vying for the contract.

Groundbreaker marks a significant turnaround for the agency, which traditionally has relied on its own government workers rather than private contractors to meet its needs.

Unable to discuss specifics, Gatanas said the agency will study potentially outsourcing general support areas, which one expert said could include such things as installation and logistics support.

"Quite frankly, nothing is truly sacred," Gatanas said.

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