Work has apparently begun on several multibillion-dollar information technology projects outsourced over the past year by the US National Security Agency (NSA), though details on what that work is exactly are sparse.
The three contracts, collectively called Greenway and worth $6.7 billion, were signed between the NSA and telecom giant AT&T, defense industry heavyweight General Dynamics and cybersecurity corporation ManTech International over the past 13 months.
“As you’d expect for an agency whose very existence was classified for years and whose budget remains classified, the NSA is being very secretive about what these programs and contracts involve,” web developer and technologist Chris Garaffa says.
According to redacted documents viewed by NextGov, the NSA is planning to “technically evolve” its IT base.
The Greenway program is a continuation of the Groundbreaker program, which has effectively outsourced a lot of the NSA’s IT operations to the private sector since 2001 in a bid to direct more resources to its “core mission” of furnishing “foreign signals intelligence” and protecting national security infrastructure, according to then-director Michael Hayden.
“Especially in the post-9/11 era, the NSA has been increasing its use of civilian contractors and partnerships to deal with the massive amount of information they need to process,” Garaffa said, giving the example of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who “was actually a contractor working for Booz Allen Hamilton when he leaked information about the agency’s surveillance programs.”
“The revolving door of what we could call the military/intelligence/security/industrial complex effectively guarantees these contracts and increasing profits for private companies that are gathering, storing and processing unimaginable amounts of data on the behalf of the NSA with virtually no government oversight under the guise of ‘national security,'” Garaffa said. “The NSA as part of the US government has effectively outsourced aspects of its global surveillance program to unaccountable private enterprise.”
Groundbreaker contracts were awarded to a group of contractors called “the Eagle Alliance,” which was headed by the Computer Sciences Corporation, which was renamed to CSRA Inc. CSRA won the first Greenway contract in September 2017, called “Global Enterprise Services,” which focuses on “services on a global scale and more virtual in nature,” according to an opaque description only revealed in a redacted decision by the Government Accountability Office over a contract dispute. CSRA was bought out by defense contractor General Dynamics in April.
AT&T was awarded a contract called “Regional Infrastructure Services I” in January, but that was only revealed by yet another Government Accountability Office document, which was also redacted. The mission of the contract is to “operate, maintain and technically evolve” the NSA’s IT. The contract awards a maximum of $3.3 billion over a decade.
“NSA also partners with AT&T to directly tap into communications centers in at least eight cities across the US, which handle not only AT&T’s internet traffic but serve as exchanges for many providers,” Garaffa said.
The “Regional Infrastructure Services II” contract went to ManTech International and is worth as much as $1 billion over 10 years. The contract concerns “services more localized and physical in nature and provisioned at specific zones throughout the world,” according to Government Accountability Office documents.
“I’m led to believe that the NSA will be using these contracts to support and expand its data collection locations across the world,” Garaffa said. “In addition to a handful of known, US-based NSA facilities, the agency has at least a dozen international facilities, of which some are known to be listening stations to intercept data and voice communications.”