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Underfunded NSA Suffers Brownouts 198

An anonymous reader writes "Almost ten years after the an internal report, and a year after a Baltimore sun story warned that the electrical system at the fort Meade NSA HQ couldn't keep up with the growing electricity demand ... the problem has got worse. The 'NSA has had to resort to partial, rolling brownouts at its computer farms and scheduled power outages and some offices are experiencing significant power disruptions'. NSA director Alexander testified to congress about this problem. It is suggested he wanted to add more than $800 million to the 07 budget. A recent public powerpoint presentation suggested 70% of of all intelligence spending goes to contractors. It also included a graph, without numbers, of this spending. It suggests that US intelligence spending is around $60 billion. An internal survey that showed NSA employees have problems trusting each other."
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Underfunded NSA Suffers Brownouts

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  • Re:Toilet seats (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sgt_doom ( 655561 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @01:51PM (#19628867)
    Regarding NSA and "underfunding" - a really crucial point us conspiracy nuts (i.e., informed and educated Americans who've taken - and passed - probability math) like to bring up:

    Immediately after the 9/11/01 attacks, the then-NSA directer, General Hayden (now CIA director), went before the US Congress requesting emergency funds. What were the top two expenditures of said funds? (This is public domain information and easily verifiable.)

    (1) More security guards, and

    (2) Hiring more polygraph examiners (that's lie detector experts, folks).

    Does that really sound like they were involved in some sort of "war on terror" or that political house-cleaning was the order of the day.....

  • I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreatBunzinni ( 642500 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @01:53PM (#19628879)
    I wonder how much of these problems are really due to lack of funding and how much are just tactics to yank an even bigger chunk of money from the guys in Washington. After all, the problems that they describe should only exist if the person in charge purposedly screwed up the budget.
  • by Adult film producer ( 866485 ) <van@i2pmail.org> on Sunday June 24, 2007 @01:53PM (#19628881)

    I hope they have more of these problems. They've proven themselves to be a complete waste of money, remember that whole terrorist thing on September 11th? $50 billion/year wasted on these bloated government agencies, abolish them now. And despite having all the resources in the world at their disposal they still managed to screw up the intelligence on Iraq. I am not impressed.

    I'm sure the CIA/NSA/DIA/DOA/etc all have very clever tic-tac-toe competitions against supercomputers and think up very some very ingenious brain busting puzzles that make people go, "ooooooh!" But they can and should do that on their own time.
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @02:01PM (#19628925)
    This doesn't sound like underfunding at all. It sounds like highly misappropriated funds going to prioritized sub-groups with an inherent motivation to see the other subgroups suffering and failing for the sake of their own relative gain. This is completely in keeping with the current administration's modus operandi of finding subgroups in organizations (lobbyists, regulators, etc.), that will play ball, and finding a way to eliminate or functionally undercut everyone else, then blame those who were undercut for the resulting general failure.

    Ryan Fenton
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @02:30PM (#19629109)
    As a graduate mathematician, I feel ashamed to see so many of my fellow students either going off to the City or to GCHQ (the UK's NSA); while it's true that the cryptanalysis work done by the latter is one of the few non-academic jobs requiring considerable "pure" mathematical skill, that's really not what the huge amount of money spent on infrastructure is for.

    Because the War on Terror/Evil Of The Day really isn't about challenging mathematical genius terrorists to ever more complicated ciphers - yes, GCHQ created RSA a few years before R, S and A, but occasionally beating open academia and having a lot more horsepower isn't ever going to put you beyond the mathematical principles you're faced with (*). Massive horsepower is for statistical analysis of insanely large quantities of data. This might occasionally find you something saucy, but it's mostly going to allow you to profile, and profiling reduces risk - past trends are a useful indicator of future performance, whether you're analysing a financial market or the behaviour of groups of humans.

    None of this will help if some random guy decides, tomorrow, to commit some nefarious deed involving an IED - something I'd say 90% of graduate scientists either have the knowledge to do, or could read up on overnight. Which goes to show that the reason everyone's not blowing everyone else up is not because there are any technological measures in place to stop them, but because by and large, for whatever reason, people don't want to.

    (Oh, and the NSA/GCHQ do have some obvious legitimate uses - such as decrypting messages between known ne'er-do-wells. If that's all they did, I might even like them.)

    Oh, and before people forget, the problem of whether the NSA is allowed to spy on Americans is easily solved in principle by GCHQ and NSA doing the dirty work for their friends across the pond; in practice, an extra-judicial agency couldn't care less anyway: he who is not accused (for there is no-one allowed to witness the crime), is not judged.

    (*) This is why I love my discipline. Men can only discover mathematics, never beat it!
  • Re:Oh boo-hoo... (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @03:21PM (#19629393)
    > So the NSA doesn't have enough electricity to illegally spy on my phone conversations and e-mail correspondence?
    > Cry me a fucking river.

    The depressing part is that when I was a larval-stage nerd, working for NSA was the coolest job imaginable. H4x04 teh Russkies' b0x3n, and defend our citizens' b0x3n against the l33t3st h4x0rz and m4th3m4t1c1unz of teh KGB. All the while trying not to spy on Americans more than absolutely necessary.

    Today, not so much. If all you wanna do is spy on Americans, you might as well work for fuckin' Google.

  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @03:32PM (#19629441)
    This may be "a failure of leadership spanning ~10 years" because the problems were predicted nine years ago, but they didn't fly out of hand until after 2001; probably after Cheney ordered the NSA to start brute forcing its way through more keyspace than the rainfall in the Tennessee Valley can handle.
  • Re:No shit.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @06:08PM (#19630363) Journal
    No. I said the Military has no need of secret operations outside of a declared warzone.

    But why shouldn't I have the military equivilent of a police radio monitor? I grew up in Virginia Beach next to the largest Navy base on the East Coast, why shouldn't I know when flight manuvers will be practiced over my neighborhood? or that will an amphibious assault training exercise at 4am on the beach at the base? or that there was and accident on one of the ships? or anything else going on in a peacetime military? If they are the might behind the Democratic will of the people, why can't the people know what they are doing? Unless of course they are doing something that the average citizen would find to be abhorrent, like:

    "Sophisticated military technology was illegally transferred from a major U.S. company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to South Africa and Chile and, from there, on to Iraq. The Iraqi-born designer of a chemical weapons plant in Libya set up shop in Florida, producing and then shipping to Iraq chemical weapon components. The CIA, the FBI and other federal agencies were made aware of the operation and did nothing to prevent it. "During the 1980s and into the '90s, senior officials of both the Reagan and Bush administrations encouraged the privatization of foreign policy, certainly towards Iran and Iraq. http://www.jonathanpollard.org/iraq.htm [jonathanpollard.org]
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @09:38PM (#19631475) Homepage

    Reducing power demand is easy. I've already done this in one server facility. Just change the voltage being fed to the computers with dual voltage or wide voltage range switching power supplies from 120 volts to 208 or 240 volts. The power supplies will on average use about 3% less power. Additionally, because the total current being used is less, the heating losses in the wiring leading to the computers will be significantly reduced (although it is usually only 1% to 2% of the total power demand). In the case of 3 phase power systems, a substantial current will be present on neutrals, causing a lot more loss (and in some cases a potential fire hazard). By connecting computers between phases in 208Y/120 volt power systems (line to line instead of line to neutral), the accumulation of currents on the neutrals will be eliminated. The currents on the phase conductors will be greater, but not by as much. The power lost heating up the conduits will be less. Alternatively, they could switch certain power systems to 416Y/240 volts and reduce the current even more (although this would require going back to line to neutral connections).

    I just wonder if the NSA already knows this. Maybe the analysts do, but what about the facility managers?

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:48PM (#19631807)
    Better yet go with DC power supplies. If you design a datacenter from the getgo to be DC you can save a significant fraction of total power usage. You save on the DC->AC inverter in your UPS and on the AC->DC step in the power supply in the servers. Add to that the lower AC demands from the more efficient power usage and your total savings are around 20% of total power budget, which is significant.
  • Re:No shit.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrjohnson ( 538567 ) on Monday June 25, 2007 @03:11AM (#19633093) Homepage
    Lol. Leave the defending the country stuff to the people who know how to do it right.

    Because you don't need to know. You don't need to know callsigns or military strategy. You don't need to know a unit is out there practicing with blanks and might be vulnerable to attack. You don't need to know how to call for air support, which is a skill that could be used against us if an enemy got one of our secure radios. *We* don't need to think about civilians listening in when we're trying to train. And a thousand other things.

    Oh sure, it might be *way cool dude* for you to know about ops, but it's our fucking lives. If you haven't noticed, we have enough to worry about.
  • I agree but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:38AM (#19634899) Homepage Journal
    Military purchasing is a nightmare. I work for a software company and one of the services wanted to buy our software. Okay fine how many do you you want. $200 copies fine we will even give you a discount on them...
    Yea right.
    First they spent a year testing it. This was none mission critical admin type stuff not a flight control system or anything. After the test they decided they like our software the best and wanted it but they had to put it out to bid. Well they tried to make it a single supplier for this bid but a senator from California made a call and put a stop to that. So here comes the bid the paper work arrives in a box and weighs no less then 50 lbs...
    We fill out all that paperwork and place our bid. Our software was the only one that could meet the specs but we still gave a good price per unit. We lost the bid. a company in California lied about the meeting the specs and under cut our bid by $2 a unit. Oh but their annual updates and support contract was $100 per unit more than ours. Four years later we get call from the DOD. It seems that the company in California went out of business and on top of that they software didn't do what they claimed. So it started all over again. We won the bid but it took a total of six years and thousands of dollars to do it. I hear that now the DOD has better systems for buying COTS systems but I can honestly say that I too would charge $500 for a hammer if I knew how the system worked.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein