Sept. 24, 2015
Chairman Burr, Vice Chairman Feinstein, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me. It is a distinct honor and privilege to appear before you today. I appreciate this opportunity to speak to you about the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) – about who we are, what we do, and how we contribute to national security. In talking with you, moreover, I am grateful for this chance to explain to the American public whom you represent what it is that their fellow citizens at NSA/CSS do to defend our nation as well as support allies and partners around the world.
NSA/CSS plays a critical role in protecting the United States' national security systems and providing insightful and actionable foreign intelligence to our leaders, commanders, and partners. We are the nation's cryptologic arm, and America and her allies depend on our efforts.
The NSA/CSS workforce, approximately 40,000 civilian and military employees, is headquartered at Ft Meade, Maryland. We have facilities in 31 states and a global presence at locations around the world. The team that I proudly lead comprises a diverse group of individuals who come from every corner of America. Almost half of our team is uniformed military, representing every Service, with both active duty and reservists. Our team members include analysts, collectors, operators, mathematicians, linguists, cryptographers, engineers, computer scientists, and too many other skills to list here. Our workforce ranges from high school interns to junior enlisted to Senior Executives and Flag rank officers. NSA/CSS personnel are well educated, with over 75% of our civilians holding bachelors' degrees or higher.
Our military and civilian linguists working in our foreign intelligence mission have proficiency in over 120 foreign languages. More than a third of NSA/CSS employees work in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and they hold the majority of the over 200 patents granted to members of the NSA/CSS workforce – more patents than any other Federal agency.
In addition to working every day to keep our country safe, our employees help to enhance their local communities by volunteering in classrooms, planting community gardens, and helping to clear the Appalachian Trail. They donate thousands of gallons of blood to the Red Cross every year, contribute millions of dollars to Federal charity drives, and give tons of food to the "Feds Feeds Families" hunger drive. NSA/CSS affiliates are volunteer firemen, Marines collecting for the Toys for Tots campaign, Airmen serving with the Civil Air Patrol, Soldiers coaching Little League, Sailors volunteering to clean the Chesapeake Bay, and civilians leading Scout troops. In short, they are your neighbors.
NSA/CSS employees work hard and well to keep our nation safe and protect our civil liberties and privacy. Let me explain their main duties and missions in a little more detail.
NSA/CSS' Information Assurance (IA) mission is to protect national security systems, such as systems that process classified information. We generate ideas for defending these networks, and impart valuable security insights so the public and our allies may benefit. In short, we ensure that our nation's leaders and military can communicate securely and that adversaries cannot gain access to the nation's secrets. That work also enables us to develop new opportunities to share warning with the private sector so America can improve the overall security and integrity of its information systems and critical infrastructure. NSA/CSS evolved with changes in technology as the world shifted from analog to digital communications,following the emergence of networks and the convergence of devices and functions in our modern, mobile society. As a result, NSA/CSS now plays a key role in cyberspace, assisting U.S. government efforts to see, mitigate, and deter cybersecurity threats. In concert with public, private, and foreign partners, our work helps to ensure users, operators, and administrators maintain control of their systems and data.
NSA/CSS also gives our leaders unique insights into the hostile activities of foreign powers and their agents. Our people lead the nation's signals intelligence (SIGINT) enterprise – defending America and our allies by collecting, analyzing, and reporting foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information derived from the interception of foreign signals and communications. NSA/CSS does this work only in accordance with law and strict guidelines, and only by collecting foreign intelligence in response to requirements from US policymakers that our leaders deem necessary to advance the nation's policy goals, to warn and report on strategic and military developments worldwide, and to prevent strategic surprise. What NSA/CSS collects and analyzes is driven by the priorities listed by national political and military leaders in formal and constantly reviewed tasking documents. We work within a framework of law, rules, and oversight provided by Congress, the Executive Branch, and, as appropriate, the courts. That system of accountability ensures the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons.
On a daily basis, NSA/CSS provides insight into hostile plans and intentions so that our customers and partners can counter threats across the globe. Our military and its partners rely on NSA/CSS' accomplishments and products to achieve tactical and operational success. Our products are part of the fight, as essential to military operations as food, fuel, and ammunition.
Our requirements include a wide range of SIGINT missions. One of our most important SIGINT missions is counter-terrorism: discovering terrorists' plans, intentions, communications, and locations to disrupt and defeat their attacks. As a Combat Support Agency, NSA/CSS directly supports the military with information to perform its missions and force protection, indications and warnings, and over watch support to keep our troops out of harm's way. Our work also helps the United States and its allies to capture bomb makers, spot illicit funds transfers, and explain to other nations how terrorists hope to transit their territory. We also work to identify potential threats to U.S. citizens, military personnel, and embassies around the world. In addition, we devote considerable resources to the international campaign to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Tracking, reporting, and sharing data to keep nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons out of the wrong hands helps to keep the nation safe. We also assist the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to protect America's critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Finally, we support U.S. Cyber Command, which I also lead, and will continue to help the Command develop the capability and capacity to accomplish its vital missions.
As you well know, the threat environment – both in cyberspace and in the physical world – is constantly evolving, and we must keep pace in order to maintain our advantage. The nation's networks, communications, and data are increasingly at risk from diverse and persistent threats. These include rogue states, organized criminal enterprises, and terrorists who are showing a willingness and aptitude to employ sophisticated capabilities against us, our allies, and indeed anyone whom they perceive as a threat or a lucrative target. Various self-proclaimed cyber activists also cloud the threat picture. In addition, certain states are disposed to conduct cyber coercion against their neighbors and rivals, and to fund campaigns of cyber exploitation against us and our allies. The targets of their efforts extend well beyond government into privately owned businesses and personally identifiable information, putting the privacy and data of all Americans at risk. And terrorists' tactics, techniques, and procedures continue to evolve. Those who would seek to harm us use the same Internet, mobile communications devices, and social media platforms that we use. As terrorists become more savvy about protecting their communications, we must keep pace in order to protect the nation and our allies.
NSA/CSS will continue to rise to these challenges. As an enterprise we have had to reinvent ourselves more than once in our history. The use of intelligence to protect our Nation dates back to the United States' very origins during the Revolutionary War. NSA's predecessors, working with their World War II partners, found German U-boats by solving Enigma machine messages. They also helped turn the tide of the war in the Pacific at Midway by cracking Japanese codes. Today, the men and women of NSA fight terrorists around the globe. During the last century, we collected and exploited Nazi and Japanese communications. Today, we target the communications of terrorist organizations who mean to do us harm, helping to uncover and thwart their efforts to communicate with sleeper cells around the world or recruit foreign fighters to their cause. The means of communications have changed, but the requirement to maintain our ability to collect and exploit the communications of hostile foreign actors remains constant. When the Information Revolution transformed communications, NSA/CSS helped lead the way toward information assurance and pioneered intelligence in cyberspace, while enabling military and counterterrorism operations in real time – in full compliance with the Constitution and the law.
Every NSA/CSS employee takes an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend" our Constitution, and the civil liberties and privacy of our citizens that the Constitution guarantees. We just repeated this oath across our workforce on 9/11. Security and privacy are not trade-offs to be balanced but complementary imperatives and NSA supports both.
The complex issues before us today represent an opportunity to write yet another chapter in the Agency's rich tradition of service. NSA/CSS plays an indispensable role in enabling our leaders to keep the peace and secure the nation. Our value lies in facilitating positive outcomes for the nation and our allies, and we have delivered this well for over 60 years. Our unique capabilities are more in demand and more important to America's security than ever. We are rightfully proud of what we have accomplished and what we continue to accomplish, and we all must strive to ensure that the American people take pride in NSA/CSS.
Mr. Chairman. Madam Vice Chairman, and Members of the Committee, thank you again for the opportunity to be here with you today; I look forward to your questions.