On Aug. 16, Siobhan Gorman, a correspondent in The Sun's Washington bureau, interviewed Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, 53, the new director of the National Security Agency, in his headquarters office at Fort Meade. Here is a transcript of the interview as recorded, transcribed and edited by The Sun.
The Sun: Thank you so much for making the time. The first thing I was
curious about was, I heard you held a town meeting and you told a few
jokes. I was wondering how well they were received and how the town meeting
The Sun: What were they?
Alexander: Actually it wasn't jokes, it was how do you liven it up a little
bit to show people that you can work hard and have a good time. And these
people work hard and they've got to know they can laugh, and it's not going
to be taken against them. So, you know, somebody asked me: "Who's your
boss?" [That] was one of the jokes. They said, "You work for the Secretary
of Defense. You work for Dr. [Stephen A.] Cambone. You work for General
[Michael V.] Hayden [principal deputy director of national intelligence and
former NSA director]. You work for Ambassador [John D.] Negroponte
[director of national intelligence]. You work for the vice president. You
work for the president. So who's your real boss?" And I said, "My wife."
And that was just a joke, but ...
The Sun: Did they laugh?
Alexander: Oh, yeah.
The Sun: Politely, or did they really mean it?
Alexander: No, they really got a laugh out of that. They really did, and I
think it loosened them up to show them you can mix humor and hard work
together. And I think the other thing that I like to do is: If you're going
to work hard and you're going to be making really tough decisions, you want
to put people at ease, so they really feel that they can communicate. And
if you don't put people at ease, they don't talk. And my experience is
putting people at ease gets them to start talking back to you.
The Sun: When was it?
Alexander: We've had several. We've actually done three of them. My intent
is to reach out to the work force and go out and meet everyone, so I've
been doing that. I think the first one was on the second of August. We did
one yesterday here, again, which would have made it the 15th. We did
one at the FANX [the Friendship Annex, a training facility that houses the
National Cryptologic School] last week, up in the Baltimore area. And so
we've had three of them.
The Sun: Are the meetings targeting different sets of employees?
Alexander: Yeah, the first one was the whole work force. The second one was some of the seniors [senior executives] to explain to them what I expect of
them in terms of the values we have, where I come from, what my values are,
where I see things going, to try to put them in this mindset. You know,
everybody comes in, and you hear all these different things. I hear that "A
is mad at you and C is not." So you get all the rumors. I said, "We can
start right now just putting the facts on the table."
Transformation, one of the issues that somebody brought up, is it
going to stop? Are you going to go back six years? And the answer is: We're
going forward. We're not going back. Some great work has been done on
transformation with respect to Transformation 1.0 and 2.0.
General Hayden and I have sat down and discussed what is best for the
agency and how we continue and where we go, and we corporately agreed that
continuing on with transformation is what we've got to do.
The Sun: By that you mean the larger set of reforms that General Hayden set
Alexander: That's right. And so now what we're doing, there are some areas
that he said, "If I were coming in, I would put a little more time in here
and a little more time here," and some great insights that he gave me and
some great support. So when talking to the work force, I gave them just
that. I said, "Let's be real honest, I know you read in the paper that
there's this big fight going on between, you know, Jack Lemmon and Walter
Matthau. Well, it's not true. I mean, they do discuss, but you know, let's
look at what General Hayden's done: Six years here, you know, our country
owes him a great debt of gratitude for working his whole career for the
service of our nation, and what he did here is extraordinary."
That we would argue over points that the country wants us to argue,
is something that is logical. What they don't put in the papers -- oh, by the
way, they agree on 99 percent of what they discuss -- it's those kinds of
issues that don't come out.
The Sun: Which points? What are the key points you agree upon?
Interview with NSA Director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander
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