Research Overview

NSA advances U.S. intelligence and national security capabilities by inventing, developing and applying advancements in science and emerging technologies to our signals intelligence (SIGINT) and cybersecurity missions. We also boast the largest in-house research organization in the Intelligence Community (IC), with experts in fields such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, cybersecurity, physics, neuroscience, and linguistics.

As a Department of Defense combat support agency and member of the IC, we aim to develop new and innovative techniques and technologies to support and enable our SIGINT and cybersecurity missions. To achieve this goal, NSA is home to a highly technical and talented workforce that performs cutting-edge research and creates breakthroughs in mathematics, computer science, engineering, cybersecurity, physics, neuroscience, and linguistics that lead to creative solutions to NSA’s most challenging problems.

NSA engages with leading industries, universities, and national laboratories to both advance core competencies and leverage work in overlapping disciplines. NSA recruits exceptional scientists with world-class skills in fields related to the emerging technologies it explores, and we are also the IC’s patent leader.

NSA Research efforts focus on these five areas:


We maintain world-class expertise in cryptologic mathematics in support of our signals intelligence and cybersecurity missions by designing strong cryptography, creating powerful mathematical tools, and advancing foundational mathematics and statistics.


We bring increased depth, resilience, and scale to the analytic methods created for to support our missions. NSA Research expands our in-house development of data science, machine learning, and scalable analytic techniques to draw actionable intelligence from raw data. This focus area is broad, spanning foundational research in human language technologies and computer vision, to large-scale graph analytics, to human-machine teaming with artificial intelligence agents.


We gain and retain persistent access to our adversaries’ communications while ensuring that our nation’s critical communications remain secure by utilizing the expertise of computer scientists, electrical engineers, computer engineers, mathematicians, and physicists.


We conduct mission-relevant research in next- and next-next generation computing technologies, architectures, prototype systems, and computational methods. NSA accelerates the timeline for implementing future computing system technologies by researching innovations in computing, hardware, software, and architecture to improve system resilience, energy efficiency, and productivity. We perform fundamental research to invent new memory and logic that will take us beyond Moore’s Law and into the quantum information sciences era.


We perform world-class research in cybersecurity operations that result in practical national security solutions by developing long-term investments and partnerships with national level leaders in operating systems, chip manufacturing, software assurance, automation, artificial intelligence, and network technologies. This research area focuses on eliminating broad classes of vulnerabilities, advancing security in standards, assuring the safety and security of emerging technologies, advancing the adoption of high-confidence tools and techniques, advancing human-machine teaming, and creating novel cybersecurity effects that provide an advantage to the defender.