Report: Utah Cops Get $1M a Year to Park at NSA Data Center

NSA contracts with state highway patrol to maintain "perimeter presence" at controversial Bluffdale facility

Jason Verge

July 31, 2015

2 Min Read
Report: Utah Cops Get $1M a Year to Park at NSA Data Center
The NSA data center with the Salt Lake Valley in the background in Bluffdale, Utah, in 2013. The data center has reportedly been plagued by power surges that destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and delayed the opening of the center for a year. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

The massive controversial NSA data center in Bluffdale, Utah, has police presence that's costing the agency $1 million a year. State Highway Patrol troopers provide the facility that became a center of attention following Edward Snowden's disclosures about the agency's mass surveillance practices with a “perimeter presence” under contract with the feds, reported a local Fox News affiliate.

In a statement, the NSA (National Security Agency) said the move was to ensure the security of its workforce and the larger community. Public outrage following the Snowden disclosures included protests at the site, putting the secretive facility in the national spotlight.

The contract is largely for posting police cruisers outside. The NSA said it was not a security contract, but a means to show a local presence of law enforcement. The data center has its own dedicated security measures and personnel.

The wages, which equate to around $50 an hour, are contracted at no expense to the State of Utah, according to state officials.

“We contract this; it’s no expense to the state of Utah,” Mike Rapich of Utah Department of Public Safety said to the news organization. “The wages are entirely covered in the contract rate. The mileage for the patrol car is covered as part of the contract, and so troopers do it in addition to their regular duty assignment as overtime, and it works out really well.”

The NSA said the facilities are used to protect national security networks and provide US authorities with intelligence and warnings about cyber threats. But NSA data centers have become a flash point for controversy. The controversy was around [REDACTED] and the [REDACTED] nature of [REDACTED].

The NSA data center and any news around it are subject to scrutiny given the history, so the NSA is making sure that people know the contract is aboveboard.

“NSA routinely partners with federal, state, and local emergency responders at domestic locations," the NSA said in its statement to Fox, for a variety of operational security reasons, "NSA does not disclose the full range of these relationships,”

The data center is located on the Utah National Guard’s Camp, with the first 30MW phase constructed at a cost of over $1.5 billion over four years. The anticipated cost was $1 billion.

It is the largest of four (known) sites, sitting at over 1 million square feet of total space consisting of 100,000 square feet of data center and the rest for technical support and administrative space. The other data centers are in Colorado, Georgia, and Maryland.

The data center was plagued with electrical problems in 2013, resulting in more than 50,000 man-hours of investigation and troubleshooting. There were 10 arc flash “meltdowns” in the data center’s first year or so. Arc flash is dangerous for both workers and equipment.

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