A new computing facility at the National Security Agency will help the country better defend against cyber attacks , agency officials and members of Congress said Monday.
The High Performance Computing Center-2 will assist in "front-line defense against immediate threats" in cyberspace, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, said during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at Fort Meade.
The 600,000-square-foot facility, similar in function to an existing computer center, is scheduled to open in 2016. Officials said it would be used to help identify and combat cyber attacks — computer-based incursions into U.S. computer networks for purposes of stealing identities, intellectual property or state secrets.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, described cyberspace as the battleground of the future.
"America faces enormous, enormous challenges," the Maryland Democrat said. "We are in a war for our future. … As long as there is an Internet, we will have an enduring war."
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, helped lead House passage last month of legislation that would allow the government and private businesses to share threat information.
The bill awaits action in the Senate, but faces a veto threat from the White House. Critics say it does not do enough in its current form to protect individual privacy.
At the groundbreaking ceremony Monday, Ruppersberger said there are three things that keep him awake at night: Spicy Mexican food, weapons of mass destruction, and "increasingly aggressive cyber attacks against our critical infrastructure and American businesses."
"We have seen the cyber war heat up drastically, and we need to shore up our defenses at once," said the Baltimore County lawmaker, whose district includes Fort Meade and NSA. "I hope that this project will help make the job a little easier."
Officials said 6,000 workers would be involved in design and construction of the computing center.