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NSA Historical Figures

Michael J. Jacobs

2018 Hall of Honor Inductee

In a 38-year career, Michael J. Jacobs greatly strengthened the U.S. information security posture. He led development of state-of-the-art products and services to NSA’s customers, while improving government and outside partnerships. His vision led to the establishment of the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD), which significantly expanded and enhanced NSA’s data and communications protection capabilities.

Mr. Jacobs significantly contributed to the Agency’s recovery from damage caused by a 1970s espionage ring. He assisted in investigations, performed damage assessments, and served as the Agency’s principal spokesman to affected U.S. and Allied organizations.

In the 1990s, under Mr. Jacobs’s direction, the Information Systems Security organization conducted a study of field cryptographic systems, revealing the obsolescence of many algorithms, maintenance problems, and interoperability issues. Based on the Jacobs study, NSA developed a cryptographic modernization roadmap that led to a U.S. Department of Defense-wide strategy for upgrading products/systems and the supporting key management infrastructure.

Mr. Jacobs developed a layered IA strategy that included a mix of government and commercial-off-the-shelf products to protect government networks, including NSA’s own. Moreover, he took the controversial step of putting algorithms approved by public cryptographers and IAD crypto mathematicians into commercial products used to protect sensitive information.

Mr. Jacobs propelled the IAD into a period of unprecedented growth in its mission, establishing NSA as the unchallenged leader in this demanding and dynamic field. He made bold decisions for the good of the agency and the nation, and his dynamic leadership made these moves successful.