Former NSA head: Employees leaving agency for private sector

The National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.


By PHIL DAVIS | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: December 11, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — The former head of the National Security Agency said the agency's employees "are increasingly leaving in large numbers" for better opportunities in the private sector.

At a Dec. 6 forum hosted by the University of Maryland, former NSA Director Keith Alexander told a gathering of journalism students, reporters and military officials that the agency headquartered at Fort George G. Meade faces a significant challenge in competing with the allure of higher salaries outside of government.

"Of course they're going to make a ton more money on the outside," Alexander said. "I am surprised that people with cyber experience at some of these large companies make up to seven figures. That's five times what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs (of Staff) makes."

Alexander headed NSA from 2010 to 2014 and is currently the CEO and president of IronNet Cybersecurity.

He added that another problem has to do with the public perception of NSA employees.

"Part of it is how the American people see them and ... it is not somebody who stands up and says what they're doing is good for our nation. You don't hear that," Alexander said.

"And if you're not told that, they're going home to their families and friends. They say 'You work at NSA? Oh, are you listening to my phone calls? Are you reading my emails?'" he added.

The forum, which included veteran journalist Ted Koppel and Merrill College's Knight Chair Dana Priest, touched on a number of subject matters regarding national security in the internet age. Koppel recently published a book on the subject matter titled "Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared."

Alexander's comments highlight that while Fort Meade's role in forming the country's cyber security defense systems and practices continues to increase, those solutions are not necessarily dominated by the public sector.

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