Friday, June 7, 2013

NSA's Million Square Foot Utah Data Center to be Completed in 2013

    Recent revelations about the scope of the National Security Agency's (NSA) data collection efforts have raised concern about what information the government is collecting, from whom, and about whom.  In March 2012, the website Wired.com published an article by James Bamford about the innocuous sounding Utah Data Center being built by the NSA that could very well be the future home for the mind-boggling bits of information that the agency is collecting.  The article reads like a conspiracy theorist's dream, but contracts located on the government's FBO.GOV website appear to back up much of the information Wired presented about this data center.  Bamford writes:
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
    On August 18, 2009, a "sources sought" listing appeared on the Federal Business Opportunities website, which, with modifications over the next few months, provided information for potential contractors for the project, including a powerpoint presentation with detailed specifications, diagrams, and even conceptual designs of the Utah facility, such as these:

    A "presolicitation" was posted on the site on December 19, 2009 and culminated in an award of almost $1.2 billion on September 24, 2010:

    Although some of the documents are "locked," this description of the project is available:
The project consists of the design and construction of a Tier III, 65 MW technical data center, located on Camp Williams, Utah. Basic ancillary supporting design and construction services include, but are not limited to: providing basic utility infrastructure, electrical service (primary power and temporary construction power), water, sewer, and gas. The facility itself will consist of approximately 1M SF of facility, of which 100K SF will be mission critical data center space with raised flooring and 900K SF of technical support and administrative space. Ancillary supporting facilities include, but are not limited to: water treatment facilities (pre and post), vehicle inspection facility, interim visitor control center, perimeter site security measures, fuel storage, water storage, chiller plant, fire suppression systems and 100% electrical generator and UPS back up capacity. The schedule will be very aggressive.
     Other contracts related to the data center are available on FBO.GOV, including the most recent from October 2012 for $23 million.  The recipient of the contract was Balfour Beatty, which had also obtained the original $1.2 billion contract.  This newest contract covers Facility Support during the transition of the facility over to government control, which, according to the documents, appears to be scheduled for September 2013, which is the same date Bamford used in his Wired article.  If the NSA is indeed collecting data on the scale that recent news reports seem to indicate, it will not be long before the agency has an enormous new facility in which to store it.

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