The National Security Agency has begun recruiting spy-tech inventors on the Monster.com of Beltway contractor jobs.
The agency posted a special notice to FedBizOpps.gov, right before the holidays, advertising work for small companies that develop "innovative technologies."
An NSA spokesman told Nextgov on Wednesday afternoon, "NSA’s posting on FedBizOpps is intended to reach out to vendors that may not know how to do business with the agency and to direct vendors to NSA’s website for more information.”
The Dec. 17 notice is short on specifics and long on administrative procedures. The one-paragraph post offers few details on the broad agency announcement for "innovative mission capabilities." Would-be covert developers must apply for online access to at least two restricted websites for more information. But the listing does provide the name, phone number and email address of the contracting officer.
The FedBizOpps.gov publicity is a first for NSA. In fact, the agency’s website, as of Dec. 31, stated that "NSA does no ‘open’ procurements;' therefore, you will never see an NSA requirement on FEDBIZOPPS."
After navigating to the webpage flagged in the notice, companies will see steps for registering to access NSA's Acquisition Resource Center, a database of spy work opportunities.
Any firm that wants to do business with NSA must obtain login credentials by entering certain business identification information, such as a DUNS number. As of October 2010, the database included about 9,300 companies, according to a January 2012 Government Accountability Office audit.
NSA's contract spending is part of the classified "black budget.” The agency told auditors that each year, 60 percent to nearly 70 percent of NSA contract obligations were awarded through open competitions among vendors.
This year, the director of national intelligence requested $53.9 billion for all fiscal 2016 national intelligence programs. In years past, about 70 percent of the intelligence budget went toward contracts.
NSA decided to change up how it normally advertises contracting opportunities, because "we engage heavily with the industrial and academic research communities to develop new and innovative technologies to help us in securing critical networks, in exploiting the communications of foreign adversaries and in providing vital foreign intelligence to our warfighters," an NSA spokesman said.
The public NSA website includes a tad more information about the Innovative Mission Capabilities program:
“IMC is limited to small businesses and focuses on innovative ideas and technical capabilities companies can prototype in three months and for a fixed price. IMC is designed to provide companies insight into NSA’s mission needs and provide NSA visibility into a company’s capabilities while following a rapid acquisition process designed to address the needs of a small company’s business model. IMC provides a pathway for companies to effectively and rapidly engage with NSA – even if the company does not currently have security clearances or has not previously worked for NSA because all work is done unclassified and in the company’s own facilities. . . The [IMC request for proposals] identifies numerous topics and technical issues of interest to NSA and also includes opportunities for companies to tell NSA what NSA missed and submit proposals addressing gaps identified by the companies."
Unlike intelligence jobs, construction work for NSA facilities is sometimes solicited in public by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“The military construction process by design is a very, very transparent process. We work through the Corps of Engineers,” Harvey Davis, then-NSA director for installations and logistics, told Nextgov in 2013, while building a $1.2 billion surveillance data center in Utah. “When we give out our request for proposal, that’s through FedBizOpps.gov.”
NSA surveillance, long a contentious point of debate, reentered the public spotlight this week over recent revelations of U.S. spying on Israelis.
On Wednesday, in an unprecedented revelation of domestic spying, the Wall Street Journal reported that cyber wiretaps targeting Israeli leaders captured conversations with members of Congress. The two countries ramped up espionage operations against each other during nuclear arms negotiations with Israel's foe Iran.