NSA Reorg = Vendor Opportunities

mark-wisinger_65x85By Mark Wisinger, Analyst042116-NSA sign

On February 8, the National Security Agency (NSA) announced its reorganization effort, known as NSA21. Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, NSA’s director, wants to bridge the notable gap between two previously distinct organizations within NSA: Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). Let’s break down each group and what the change means for industry.

The SIGINT directorate served as the “offensive” organization, focused on intelligence collection through offensive capabilities. Much of NSA’s publicity originates from SIGINT.

The IAD has been focused on purely defensive capabilities and more open in communicating with industry historically. IAD typically uses more COTS software than SIGINT; IAD director Curtis Dukes looks to commercial IT to help bridge gaps and allow his personnel to focus on operational duties. The organization is also much smaller than SIGINT with 3,000 employees versus about 24,000 at SIGINT. IAD’s employees tend to work more closely with industry and are frequently poached by the private sector for their defensive skillsets.

Rogers is determined to break down the barriers between SIGINT and IAD with the new “Operations” directorate, which combines SIGINT and IAD. The NSA/CSS Threat Operations Center (NTOC) served as a pilot for this initiative through a small-scale implementation of combined SIGINT and IAD operations. The NTOC has since been dissolved with the standing up of the Operations directorate.

So what does this mean for vendors interested in NSA?  Cybersecurity and analytics solutions will still have the biggest play on the IAD side of the Operations directorate. But there’s more opportunity for expanding into SIGINT with the increased collaboration between the directorates. SIGINT personnel will have increased exposure to solutions in the IAD operational environment through the new “Capabilities” directorate. It’s an opportunity for cloud, infrastructure, and business application vendors. Overlap exists, but it’s critical to focus on the relevant offices and personnel within these respective directorates.

NSA21 provides some additional opportunity for SIGINT expansion for IT vendors in addition to some rebranding of the organization. Vendors familiar with the organization should be able to adjust quickly and take advantage.

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