The National Security Agency officially opened for business Monday in its new building on Fort Gordon.
In a rare public ceremony for an agency typically cloaked in secrecy, NSA’s director and other dignitaries symbolically cut the ribbon inside a 200-seat rotunda that will serve as an operations center. When full occupancy is completed in late summer, about 4,000 civilian and military workers trained in linguistics and cryptology will report to what’s known as NSA Georgia.
Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the commander of the Fort Meade, Md.,-based NSA, acknowledged the irony of inviting the public to a department jokingly referred to as “No Such Agency.”
He heaped praise, however, on the work done in Augusta to support national defense and military missions abroad.
When national and tactical leaders receive vital information, “they know it’s NSA Georgia pulling the load,” Alexander said.
More than 100 people – a mix of career officers in uniforms and civilians wearing jeans – went to the rotunda for Monday’s ceremony. The rotunda, featuring a panoramic video screen that spans half a wall, holds 200 seats in an open environment designed to encourage collaboration. That’s a fraction of the 604,000 square feet spread out over three levels holding more than 2,500 workstations, 47 conference rooms, a 2,800-square-foot fitness center and a 300-seat auditorium.
The building cost $286 million and was dedicated at the completion of construction in 2010 to John Whitelaw, who was the deputy director of operations when the NSA first came to Fort Gordon in 1994; at that time, there were 50 employees.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, said in a news conference before the ribbon-cutting that the community’s support for Fort Gordon and the quality of life in Augusta played an integral part in the decision to build the facility here. Groundbreaking for the building was in 2007.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am ... of the men and women who are part of the team that is protecting Americans and protecting America,” Chambliss said.