NSA center expected to boost local economy
By Tim Rausch| Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007
At the corner of 16th Street and Lane Avenue on Fort Gordon, workers are
ready to construct a gigantic intelligence-gathering center for the National
Security Agency. At $340 million, the National Security Agency/Central Security
Service Georgia facility is surpassed in scope and cost by only one other
federal project - the $5 billion mixed oxide fuel project under construction
at Savannah River Site where plutonium from nuclear warheads will become
fuel for power generation.
Outside of a few public announcements and a groundbreaking ceremony, the
NSA building - where civilian and military personnel will monitor communications
in Europe and the Middle East - could be considered as much a secret as the
missions that will be conducted inside it. "It's been a very low-key
announcement, simply because it is a NSA facility," said Walter Sprouse,
the executive director for the Development Authority of Richmond County.
What isn't secret is the role the new jobs will play in improving the economy.
The Department of Defense speculated in construction documents that there
could be as many as 3,000 military personnel assigned to the 500,000-square-foot
building, commonly referred to as "NSA Georgia" or "NSAG," by 2010. The
government will phase it into use over two years. In 2012, there are expected
to be 4,000 people working there, said Thom Tuckey, the executive director
of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon. There are about 2,400 people there
now, up from 1,200 in 1992.
"Specific numbers of people to occupy the new NSAG facility have not yet
been finalized," spokeswoman Marti Mercer said. "Some employees will be
transferred to NSAG from various locations throughout the NSA enterprise,
while other personnel will be hired in Georgia or specifically for jobs in
Georgia." With the ripple effect of those jobs, 4,000 employees at NSA Georgia
will support the existence of 14,000 other jobs in the region. A lot of those
jobs already exist in banks, restaurants, stores and municipal services.
Mr. Sprouse is using a 3.5-to-1 jobs ratio, down from the rule of thumb of
5-to-1, because these are government jobs on government land, which come
with a level of self-sufficiency not in the private sector. "Sometimes a
lot of people don't understand that multiplier effect because you don't see
it," he said.
That's because the jobs add up here and there. "What you'll probably see
is some small business growth because of the activity there," said Zack Daffin,
the executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County. "Clearly
we will see more cash into the economic system." With Grovetown and Harlem
being so close to the base, it is only natural to assume that the newcomers
will affect the residential market, Mr. Daffin said.
Mr. Tuckey said analysts are relocating now to Augusta from Washington, D.C.,
getting much more house for their money. "They're hiring a hundred civilians
a year for the next five years. That's the number I've been given," Mr. Tuckey
said. "They're primarily seeking people with strong math and analytical
backgrounds. They're hiring them to be intelligence analysts ... people who
can turn raw data into intelligence." The mix would be three military members
to one civilian.
The focus of NSA Georgia will be Europe and the Middle East. Mr. Tuckey said
other NSA facilities also are being built. One in
will focus on Central and South America, and the one in
Hawaii is for Asia,
if cost overruns don't kill the project, he said.
For the time being, the national security operations at Fort Gordon will
continue to be done in five buildings spread throughout the grounds - an
arrangement that's prompting the need for a new facility. NSA Georgia occupies
220,000 square feet, which is inadequate, according to Defense Department
documents. Mr. Tuckey said modular trailers also are being used so the existing
intelligence force can expand while waiting for the new building.
Chantilly, Va.-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. won the contract to build
the center, and it has already held meetings to get local subcontractors.
Construction is supposed to be finished by August 2010. The primary facility
is expected to cost $243 million. Supporting facilities will cost $64 million.
The rest of the project cost is in modular facilities and moving the Battle
Lab. What isn't in the Department of Defense documents is the equipment.
Mr. Tuckey said the cost of NSA Georgia could be closer to $1 billion once
it is fully outfitted.
The new $5.7 million headquarters for the Battle Command Battle Lab is done,
according to Fort Gordon officials, allowing for the demolition of the old
battle lab since it sits on the NSA Georgia construction site. Fort Gordon
officials aren't talking about the construction progress or the number of
construction jobs that are being created there for the next three years.
The Army Corps of Engineers' contract requires that the project is hush-hush.
It isn't even referred to as NSA Georgia in plans. It is called Sweet Tea.
Even though it is an empty field right now, Mr. Tuckey said, gawkers will
quickly be introduced to the fort's security forces. A tour by the governor's
military liaisons last week got their attention.
Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch[at]augustachronicle.com.
Also known as: Sweet Tea
Total project request: $340.8 million
Estimated finished cost: Could be closer to $1 billion when considering the
Size: 501,699 square feet, replacing 220,602 square feet spread out over
Sources: Department of Defense; CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon