National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander disclosed Aug. 8 that the surveillance agency is reducing its 1,000-member staff of system administrators by 90 percent. When and where those cuts will take effect remains unclear.
Neither the NSA nor Booz Allen Hamilton, the firm that formerly employed fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, are keen to divulge details.
"I don't have any contractor-specific information to provide," NSA spokesperson Vanee' Vines told U.S. News.
"We don't have any comment on this topic," said James Fisher, Booz Allen Hamilton's senior media relations manager.
Snowden used his position as a system administrator assigned to the NSA to download and distribute for worldwide publication information on top secret phone and Internet surveillance programs.
The disclosures embarrassed President Barack Obama and brought unprecedented congressional scrutiny to the NSA. In a July 24 vote, House members narrowly rejected a proposal to defund the NSA's collection of all Americans' phone records.
Alexander told attendees of a New York cybersecurity conference Thursday that machines would replace the human workers, increasing efficiency and security.
"[W]hat we've done is we've put people in the loop of transferring data, securing networks and doing things that machines are probably better at doing," he said, according to Reuters.
Alexander also hinted that he was impatient with the pace of retiring the 900 or so system administrators, indicating that contractual agreements may be holding up the transition.
"What we're in the process of doing – not fast enough – is reducing our system administrators by about 90 percent," he said, according to Reuters. Alexander told the House intelligence committee in June that around 1,000 people held that title.
In addition to the staffing reduction, the NSA implemented in July a two-person rule requiring that two NSA employees be present whenever top-secret documents are being accessed. The policy is also designed to ward off future leaks.