Bloomberg News

NSA Center for Spy Data Hit by Electrical Failures in Tests

October 08, 2013

A $1.2 billion data center being built in Utah for the National Security Agency to house U.S. intelligence secrets has been plagued by electrical failures, according to an agency official.

The electrical failures at the facility located in the suburbs of Salt Lake City have been mitigated and the center is completing acceptance testing, the official, who asked not to be identified, said in an e-mail. The problems were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

The center -- one of the Defense Department’s biggest construction projects in the U.S. -- is intended to be “a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the intelligence community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation’s cyber security,” according to a January 2011 NSA statement.

“During the testing and commissioning of the Utah Data Center, problems were discovered with certain parts of the electrical system,” according to a statement by the Army Corps of Engineers passed on by the NSA last night. “Issues such as these can arise in any project, and are the reason the Corps tests and reviews every aspect of any project prior to releasing it to the customer.”

The NSA’s spying programs include storing the phone records of millions of Americans as well as the e-mail and Internet activity of suspected foreign terrorists who may communicate with U.S. citizens, according to documents exposed in June by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

10 Meltdowns

The causes of the center’s problems, which include 10 electrical meltdowns in the past 13 months, have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery and delayed the its opening by a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Utah facility sits on about 247 acres and includes 1.2-milion-square-feet of enclosed space and will host the power, space, cooling and communications needed for specialized computing, said the NSA official, who requested anonymity because of not being authorized to publicly discuss the project’s problems.

“In an era when our nation and its allies are increasingly dependent on the integrity of information and systems supported, transmitted, or stored in cyberspace, it is essential that that space is as resilient and secure as possible,” John Inglis, NSA deputy director, said in the January 2011 statement on the need for the facility.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net


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