National Security Agency gives tour of new facility at Fort Gordon

A rendering at the new NSA facility at Fort Gordon. (WRDW-TV / March 5, 2012)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, March 5, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The National Security Agency now has a much larger footprint in Georgia. The 604,000 square foot Gordon Regional Security Operations Center sits on 160 acres in the heart of Fort Gordon. The price tag: $286 million.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, is vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

"And I can't tell you how proud I am, number one, of the men and women who occupy that building and that are part of a team all across the world that is protecting America and protecting Americans," Chambliss said.

What they do is a simple secret. They gather intelligence from around the world and feed it to our policy makers and military commanders.

But the NSA had an interesting challenge; how to show off a super secret building to the rest of the world. Their solution: no cameras or cellphones allowed. In fact they gave News 12 the video of the building to use in our report. It was three shots of the exterior of the facility.

The closest our camera was allowed was 2 miles away from the new building. That's where we spoke with Chambliss.

"Well," Chambliss chuckled, "that's rare that you're not able to take your cameras inside a facility. But there are good reasons why that's the case."

Good reasons that not only include national security, but the security of the thousands of men and women who work inside. They won't talk specific numbers -- but one look at the parking lot from a Google satellite shot tells you quite a bit about the size of the workforce here. It's in the thousands.

"These are major, major jobs," Chambliss said. "I mean these men and women are providing a service to the security of the United States that is second to none."

The new building is a long way from the NSA's first step into Georgia. They started with a workforce of about 50 people in 1994.

Chambliss says Augusta can take credit for the expansion.

"It has a lot to do with the quality of life in the community, the great support this community gives to Fort Gordon and the other assets on the post," he said.

After interviewing Chambliss, members of the media were told to leave the cameras behind. Then, there was a short van ride to the ribbon-cutting inside the sprawling facility. Security was extremely tight. NSA has its own security force that's completely separate from the MP's you see at Fort Gordon.

The actual ribbon-cutting ceremony took place inside the massive operations center. It's an enormous circular room that has the feel of something you'd see in a James Bond movie. Words can hardly do it justice. It was filled with NSA workers along with other dignitaries and members representing all of the armed forces.

Speakers included Gen. Keith Alexander, the commander of the United States Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency/Chief of the Central Security Service; Col. John Swartz, commander of NSA/CSS Georgia and the 706th Military Intelligence Group; and Richard Albright, deputy associate director, Installations & Logistics.

And remarkably, they're not finished growing here yet. Construction is set to begin this summer on a 45,000 square foot addition. As for those NSA jobs, they're still hiring. And you can find out more about applying for those jobs through the NSA website.

Col. John M. Swartz. (Courtesy of NSA)