NSA Denies Datacenter Disaster; Facility Opening On Time: Report

NSA’s massive Utah Data Center under construction

The National Security Agency responded to alarming reports about electrical fires and explosions delaying the opening of its Utah Data Center by saying the reports of damage were overblown.

Many of the details of the problems and damage came from an unreleased report from the Army Corps of Engineers, summaries of which appeared in a Wall Street Journal story Oct. 8.

The electrical problems are far less severe and the damage much more contained than media reports indicated, according to a letter to Congress from Harvey Davis, NSA director for installations and logistics. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a summary of the letter for a story published Oct. 10.

Arc flashes – a dramatic, damaging form of short circuit that is often the cause of injuries to humans in industrial accidents involving electricity – were discovered during testing of the electrical and generator-backup systems, but the problems were isolated to circuit-breaker and failsafe systems.

“No NSA mission systems were damaged, nor were any additional costs incurred by the government,” the SL Tribune quoted Harvey’s letter as saying.

Contractors have doubled their warranty from five years to 10, cached replacement breakers at the facility and agreed to provide three years of quick-response service, Harvey wrote. In addition to the Corps of Engineers, the NSA has called in a group of experts including engineers, forensics investigators, practical and academic researchers to inspect the systems and identify problems. The Agency is currently in the process of “implementing the jointly agreed-to solution.”

Contractors are correcting problems identified from incidents and pointed out by experts, Corps of Engineers spokesman Carlos J. Lazo told the SLTribune.

The Wall Street Journal story was based on a draft version of the Corps’ evaluation of the facility, he said.

“Our current assessment,” Harvey’s letter to Congress added, “is [that] this issue will be fully resolved, mission systems will be installed on schedule, and the project will remain within budget.”


Image: NSA