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A View from the Quarter-Deck at the National Security Agency

Admiral William Studeman

Admiral William O. Studeman, U.S. Navy, currently serves as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence at the CIA. Until April 1992, he was the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA). His training in the field of military intelligence began subsequent to his graduation in 1962 with a B.A. in history from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. Thereafter, he accumulated a series of impressive academic credentials in his chosen specialty, taking postgraduate degrees at the Fleet Operational Intelligence Training Center, Pacific, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (1963); the Defense Intelligence School in Washington, DC (1967); the Naval War College in Providence, Rhode Island (1973); and the National War College in Washington, DC (1981). He also holds an M.A. in Public and International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, DC (1973).

The Admiral's early tours of duty were based in the Pacific, where he initially served as an Air Intelligence Officer and, during the Vietnam conflict, as an Operational Intelligence Officer, deploying as the Command Staff of the Amphibious Task Force, U.S. Seventh Fleet. Later assignments posted him to such duty stations as the U.S. Sixth Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Force, Naples, Italy; the Defense Intelligence Agency station in Iran; the Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Center, Norfolk, Virginia; and the U.S. Sixth Fleet Command,


Gaeta, Italy. His duties immediately preceding his appointment as NSA Director included assignments as Commanding Officer of the Navy Operational Intelligence Center (1984–85) and Director of Naval Intelligence (1985–88), both in Washington .

The National Security Agency (NSA) possesses an enlightened, harmonious, heterogeneous computing environment, probably the most sophisticated such environment anywhere. In a sense, it is the largest general-purpose supercomputing environment in the world. Its flexibility in using microcomputers to supplement specially adapted high-power workstations and state-of-the-art supercomputers goes beyond anything that could have been imagined just a few years ago. The investment represents many billions of taxpayer dollars. A major portion of that investment is in supercomputing research, particularly in massively parallel areas, and in the applications that we use routinely on our networking systems. Because of special applications like these, and because of multilevel security requirements, NSA is obliged to operate its own microchip factory. Even if Congress declared tomorrow that the world had become safe enough to halt all defense work at the microelectronics lab, one could still justify the lab's existence on the basis of a whole range of nondefense applications related to the national interest.

So the computing environment at NSA is a complete computing environment. Of course, the focus is narrowly defined. Raw performance is an overriding concern, especially as it applies to signal processing, code-breaking, code-making, and the operations of a very complicated, time-sensitive dissemination previous hit architecture next hit that requires rapid turnaround of collected and processed intelligence. In turn, that intelligence must be sent back to a very demanding set of users, many of whom function day-to-day in critical—sometimes life-threatening—situations.

One must admit to harboring concern about certain aspects of the federal High Performance Computing Initiative. Most especially, the emphasis must be on raw performance. Japanese competition is worrisome. If Japanese machines should someday come to outperform American machines, then NSA would have to at least consider acquiring Japanese machines for its operations.

Let me digress for a moment. You know, we operate both in the context of the offense and the defense. Consider, for instance, Stealth technology as it relates to battle space. Stealth benefits your offensive posture by expanding your battle space, and it works to the detriment of your enemy's defensive posture by shrinking his battle space. Translate


battle space into what I call elapsed time: Stealth minimizes elapsed time when you are on the offense and maximizes it when you are on the defense.

I raise this rather complicated matter because I want to address the issue of export control. Some in government continue holding the line on exporting sensitive technology—especially to potentially hostile states. And I confess that this position makes some of us very unpopular in certain quarters, particularly among industries that hope to expand markets abroad for American high-tech products. I have heard a great many appeals for easing such controls, and I want to assure you, relief is on the way. Take communications security products: there now remains only a very thin tier of this technology that is not exportable. The same situation will soon prevail for computer technology; only a thin tier will remain controlled.

It most certainly is not NSA's policy to obstruct expansion of overseas markets for U.S. goods. Ninety-five per cent or more of the applications for export are approved. NSA is keenly aware that our vital national interests are intimately bound up with the need to promote robust high-tech industries in this country, and it recognizes that increased exports are essential to the health of those industries. Among the potential customers for high-tech American products are the Third World nations, who, it is clear, require supercomputing capability if they are to realize their very legitimate aspirations for development.

And it is just as clear that the forces of darkness are still abroad on this planet. In dealing with those forces, export controls buy time, and NSA is very much in the business of buying time. When the occasion demands, you must delay, obfuscate, shrink the enemy's battle space, so to speak.

It is no secret that NSA and American business have a community of interest. We write contracts totaling hundreds of millions—even billions—of dollars, which redound to the benefit of your balance sheets. Often, those contracts are written to buy back technology that we have previously transferred to you, something that never gets reflected on NSA's balance sheet. Still, in terms of expertise and customer relations, the human resources that have been built up over the years dealing with American business is a very precious form of capital. And that capital will become even more precious to NSA in the immediate future as the overall defense budget shrinks drastically (disastrously, in my view). If NSA is to continue carrying out its essential functions, it will more and more have to invest in human resources.

This may be a good time to bring up industrial policy. "Government-business cooperation" might be a better way to put it. I'm embargoed from saying "industrial policy," actually. It's not a popular term with the


current administration. Not that the administration or anyone else in Washington is insensitive to the needs of business. Quite the opposite. We are more sensitive than ever to the interdependence of national security and a healthy industrial base, a key component of which is the supercomputer sector. If we analyze that interdependence, we get the sense that the dynamic at work in this country is not ideal for promoting a competitive edge. The Japanese have had some success with vertical integration, or maybe they've taken it a bit too far. Regardless, we can study their tactics and those of other foreign competitors and adapt what we learn to our unique business culture without fundamentally shifting away from how we have done things in the past.

What is NSA's role in fostering government-business cooperation, particularly with respect to the supercomputing sector? Clearly, it's the same role already mentioned by other speakers at this conference. That role is to be a good customer in the future, just as it has been in the past. NSA has always been first or second in line as buyers. Los Alamos National Laboratory took delivery on the first Cray Research, Inc., supercomputer; NSA took delivery on the second and spent a lot of money ensuring that Cray had the support capital needed to go forward in the early days. We at NSA are doing the same thing right now for Steve Chen and the Supercomputer Systems, Inc., machine. NSA feels a strong obligation to continue in the role of early customer for leading-edge hardware, to push the applications of software, and to be imaginative in its efforts to fully incorporate classical supercomputing with the massively parallel environment.

One area in which NSA is certain to devote more resources is cryptography problems that prove less tractable when broken down into discrete parallel pieces than they are when attacked in a massively parallel application. Greater investment and greater momentum in this line of research is a high priority.

Producing computer-literate people: through the years, NSA has nurtured a great pool of expertise that the entire nation draws upon. Many of you in this very audience acquired your credentials in computing at NSA, and you have gone out, like disciples, to become teachers, researchers, and advocates. Of course, NSA maintains a strong internship program, with the object of developing and recruiting new talent. Many people are not aware that we have also mounted a very active education program involving students in the Maryland school system, grades K through 12. Further, NSA brings in teachers from surrounding areas on summer sabbaticals and provides training in math and computer science that will improve classroom instruction. All of these efforts


are designed to address directly the concerns for American education voiced by the Secretary of the Department of Energy, Admiral James D. Watkins (retired).

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to get out of Washington for a while and attend this conference here in the high desert. And thank you for bearing with me during this rambling presentation. What I hoped to accomplish in these remarks was to share with you a view from the quarter-deck—a perspective on those topics of mutual interest to the military-intelligence community and the high-performance computing community.


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