Alexander: I see that as continuing what General Hayden has had. So 2.0 is something that they started and we're continuing. And we will finish up and go into 3.0, which would be into the network and beyond, which is one of the ones that they were emerging as I got here, which is some of our roles in network operations and network warfare.

The Sun: What do you mean by network operations? What would be a good example?

Alexander: Computer network operations. The Internet. How do you now go against a network instead of go against a single target?

The Sun: I was going to ask you about that. Looking more broadly, I was talking with Admiral [Vice Admiral Mike] McConnell [former NSA director], who mentioned that you had really focused the Army, or had been working on refocusing the Army against more of a terrorist network-type enemy, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on how you start to get at that here?

Alexander: Well, I can jump back to the Army part first. It was great with General [Peter J.] Schoomaker, the chief [of staff of the Army], when he came in and was looking at Army transformation. One of the statements he made was really something that our country needs to think about, which I thought was superb: Our nation doesn't need an Army to be an Army that always did A, and you could say, make typewriters. We needed an Army for the defense of our country to defend it against those threats that would emerge.

And as those threats changed, we had to have an Army that changed to meet those threats. As you go from the conventional threats that the Soviet Union posed in the '80s to an unconventional set of threats that terrorists and other irregular warfare pose today, you need a different Army with different capabilities that can spread that whole spectrum of warfare.

The National Security Agency needs to do the same thing in our collection, our capability. Does that make sense?

The Sun: How do you do it?

Alexander: Transformation. The real issue is how do you do it efficiently. I think the way to do it efficiently is smaller steps, more rapidly done, rather than try to take one big jump and make it all the way across. So that was part of General Hayden's testimony [in April], too. I think he hit it right on the head. That's exactly what we need to do. We can spiral forward much of what we need to do. We have some great capabilities here.

The Sun: Getting at that Transformation 3.0 issue, what kinds of strategies can be employed to start focusing on networks as opposed to targets?

Alexander: Well, one is ... the volume of data that we collect is going to continue to grow. And so one of the things ... you look at is how do we now do analysis in a new environment?

And one of the things that the Army wrestled with too, is as [you] get more information to your analysts, they have to have the tools now to handle that greater volume of information. And so analysts are going to be taking on a different role. The information that you used to collect, now to get a relevant piece of information -- finding a tank division that was moving out there [points out the window], if you miss that, something's wrong. OK, so think about it. So now, collecting on a tank division was a little bit easier. Now here's the difference, find a terrorist in a city where there are 22 million people. That's a much more difficult, much more complex problem that requires all our agencies to work together. How do we do that?

And so you're now trying to find out information about information that gets into things like extensive markup language or XML tagging. How you handle data. How you visualize that data, and how we jump from industrial-age analysis to the information-age analysis that our country needs. And so I think what we're embarking on, what we have been doing, is jumping from one era to another. Does that make sense? And I think that is where our country needs us to go for our security.

The Sun: So do you then see the kind of change or transformation that you'd like to see happen here, is that somewhat akin to what you were doing at the Army? Because I know that there you were developing the Information Dominance Center and things like that. And that was sort of trying to work on the needle in the haystack problem. Is that analogous?

Alexander: It's analogous. Oh, by the way, you know who one of our benefactors was to do that, who helped fund that? [It] was NSA. That is kind of ironic, and for the good of both NSA and us was to get some of these tool sets to all the analysts, so we corporately did that.

Now I see this going a little bit further. So let me just jump you back into an Army analogy that I used when I was a G-2 [Army intelligence officer], of how you shared information. That went from a theater to a theater to a corps, corps to a division, division to a brigade, brigade to a battalion, battalion to a company, company to a platoon, and then you get the guys in the front end.

If you look at that and you think about the time that information flowed under the old way, that was the only way you could do it. And it starts back to the Civil War where you have that guy on that ridge with signal flags, and then it would go down to the next. ... OK, now think if you were flying in an airplane and we're passing you that information like that, when it was going from there to there to there [he traces along a map mounted under glass on his conference table]. You're over bad country all this way here, and then all of a sudden they say, "Oops. They got shot down but we were passing the message." Now jump forward. How do we do that for our soldiers and Marines and civilians in Iraq? They aren't part of the network. But they need to be.

So one of the big transformation agendas we have is how do you tie the people to the network so that information flows freely to those who need it for IED [improvised explosive device, or roadside bomb] information, for attack, for operations. Does that make sense?

So now what we did was we just turned that whole paradigm around in the Army and said, "Uh-oh. The guys who need it in first are the ones who are in peril most." That means turning around the way we think about information.

Now when you think about how we used to do it and how we're doing it, it's a similar thing, except for on the analytic part. So, much of that has been ongoing here within the agency. So those things you already see are going on. What we'll do is continue those. We'll bring in and continue to work those. But that transformation has already started. It is a logical step to do.