Hidden in plain sight, the National Security Agency's sprawling and secretive new complex on Fort Gordon is nearing completion.
Cars can be seen filling the vast parking lot that surrounds the imposing, 500,000-square-foot-building at the corner of 16th Street and Lane Avenue, where civilian and military personnel will soon be monitoring communications in Europe and the Middle East. The main building is complete, with workers now outfitting the building with equipment, according to Thom Tuckey, of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon.
"Actual construction of the new building is finished, but it is now going through several stages of outfitting (installing equipment and interior components)" Tuckey wrote in an e-mail. "They may start moving parts of the mission in later this year but it is not projected to be fully occupied and operational until sometime in 2012 or 2013."
Aside from a groundbreaking ceremony and a few public releases, authorities have said little about the $340 million building, officially dubbed the National Security Agency/Central Security Service Georgia facility. In plans for the project, authorities refer to it by the name Sweet Tea.
Chronicle photographers and reporters who have visited Fort Gordon for stories not relating to the project are told not to shoot anywhere near the building. Requests for a tour of the facility were not answered Tuesday, and Fort Gordon personnel claim to know little about its workings.
Soon, thousands of personnel will be moving into the building -- consolidating five national security operations spread throughout the post under one roof.
"The mission has been here in a slightly different form since 1995 and is being expanded and modified," Tuckey said. "They started with about 1,750 employees and are currently at around 3,000."
Tuckey said that number is likely to increase over the next few years at the NSA's role expands. Recently, Col. Mike Meyer, the commander of the 480th ISR Group -- the Air Force's component of the NSA's mission -- spoke at a breakfast and said an additional 100 to 150 Air Force personnel could be coming to the facility in 12 to 18 months.
Aside from being a joint mission involving the Air Force, Army and Navy, the NSA/CSS will also employ a large number of civilians. One of those jobs was posted on the NSA's Web site.
The government is looking for a facilities operator who can maintain and operate NSA Georgia's heating, air conditioning, water and other systems. It is a "key" position, requiring work during an emergency.
"The position cannot be vacated during national emergency or mobilization without seriously impairing the capability of the organization to function effectively," according to the job description.