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Especially given the NSA borrows an awful lot of its software inspiration from the private sector (eg Google's BigTable). There's little reason to think their hardware efforts would be dramatically more advanced if their software effort isn't.

What the NSA has are three things: a lot of money coming in every year; a lot of relatively intelligent and highly skilled people working for it; and a license to do terrible things and get away with it (ie they can take incredible risks, and try outrageous things, with minimum concern, and or certainly previously could).

The NSA has a budget roughly the size of Microsoft's annual R&D budget, without needing an $80 billion highly profitable business to be maintained. It's amazing what you can do and or attempt with a 'free' $10 or $12 billion per year to burn.




> What the NSA has are three things: a lot of relatively intelligent and highly skilled people working for it;

Do they though? I have sometimes wondered about this. In order to work for the NSA you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to be a US citizen. You have to pass a background check. You have to be contend with a government salary. You may never talk about your job (how does that look on a resume if you ever want to apply somewhere else? Prior experience: classified). You have to work in one of the few locations they operate in. You have to be a pretty hardcore patriot to put up with the things the NSA is doing and still be able to sleep at night.

In summary: it seems that the pool of potential employees should be severely limited. Hence my guess would be that the top talent ends up in the private sector instead of the NSA.

Or, just read the NSA quote from the movie Good Will Hunting again: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119217/quotes?item=qt0408102




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