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NSA director inherited Star Trek digs

The spy chief oversaw a command center Capt. Kirk would love (NBC). The spy chief oversaw a command center Capt. Kirk would love (NBC).

We’ve been hearing a lot about that Star Trek-esque command center run by now-NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander when he was leading the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command.

But while the spy chief seemed to enjoy a  Captain Kirk-worthy facility at Fort Belvoir, Va., which was reportedly the creation of a Hollywood set designer, it turns out that the command center was already in place when he took the job. It was built, sources tell our colleague Ellen Nakashima, in 1998. Alexander took over the post in 2001.

Not to say that he didn’t revel in the futuristic command center’s bells and whistles, which include doors that make a distinctive “whooshing” sound when opening or closing. But it seems he didn’t, as some reports have suggested, personally “model” his working space after the digs of Spock and company.

Joel Harding, a retired Army officer very familiar with the room, described the space in a 2010 interview with The Post thusly: It had eight wide screens, a graphics processor designed in consultation with Disney, and a stainless steel captain’s chair. “It was always called the Captain Kirk chair,” he said. “The whole thing was Star Trek, Star Trek to the max.”

But Keith Alexander was the senior intelligence officer at Centcom at the time. “He had nothing to do with creating the center,” said Harding, who was an information operations officer on the Joint Staff and worked with the center, which at the time called the Land Information Warfare Activity.

Still, the nifty workspace seemed to make an impression on the members of congress and other important visitors who dropped by to check it out. “Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,” a retired officer in charge of VIP visits told Foreign Policy.

We wonder if those visitors felt twinges of envy, and we can only hope that the design inspired high-ranking visitors to undertake some redecorating of their own digs to satisfy their respective fantasies. Perhaps a ship captain’s quarters, complete with mahogany steering wheels. Or, for those who prefer the Star Wars franchise to Star Trek, maybe the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon?

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.



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Emily Heil · September 16, 2013

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