How The 'Information Dominance Center' Was Made To Look Like The Starship Enterprise Bridge

from the whooooosh dept

Update: As some folks pointed out in the comments, the Washington Post is noting that Alexander inherited the room, which was built a few years before he took over. Our apologies. The Foreign Policy story suggested otherwise. The Post notes that Alexander still liked to use the room to impress politicians, but he did not build it himself.

Last week, in discussing Foreign Policy magazine’s giant profile on NSA boss Keith Alexander, we noted the wackiness of his decision, in an earlier job, to have the information center set up to he used a room designed to look like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise to impress politicians:

When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

“Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,” says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.

A few stories had popped up focusing on this tidbit, but now photos of the setup have been revealed, as the architect firm who designed it, DBI Architects, apparently at one point published a PDF about the project, complete with a bunch of pictures.

While the case study doesn’t specifically call out Star Trek, it does note:

The futuristic, yet distinctly military, setting is further reinforced by the Commander’s console, which gives the illusion that one has boarded a star ship.

While some have reported this is the NSA’s headquarters, that’s not true. As noted, it was back when Alexander was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, and the room was built back in 1999 (prior to Alexander taking on the job). Still, it does give you a sense of how Alexander “charms” politicians. And, how can we not call out the fact that this place was called the “Information Dominance Center.” So aggressive.

Wouldn’t it be better if the politicians involved in oversight of the intelligence community were focused on doing their jobs, rather than getting to play pretend in a taxpayer-funded Star Trek set?

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Comments on “How The 'Information Dominance Center' Was Made To Look Like The Starship Enterprise Bridge”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Wouldn't it be better if you quit Masnicking?

In the just prior item you wrote:

Here at Techdirt, we probably cover about one quarter to one third the number of stories we’d like to (which is also why I have about a thousand open tabs of stories I’m “hoping” to get to one of these days).

Yet here you re-hash a cutesy diverting story everyone has already seen.

Masnicking: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t it nice to know the government is spending all that tax money wisely? We have the DoD that some how can’t afford a fax machine to deal with FOI requests.

Now we have someone that has just barely enough money to redecorate their office, struggling to some how update and modernize it. And we wonder why we are trillions in debt?

Lets save everyone a bunch of bucks and shut down the NSA, DHS, and the TSA. We’d sure be money ahead for those seriously considering that those on social security are draining government funds.

Coogan (profile) says:

“Captain, we have entered orbit around Earth.”
“Excellent. Commence communications intercept.”
“Captain, a ship has launched from the surface and is moving to intercept our course. The ship identifies itself as the USA Constitution
“Red alert! Evasive maneuvers! Load proton lawyer tubes!”
“Lawyers loaded, sir.”
“Target that ship and fire!”
“Direct hit, sir! The ship’s shields have been neutralized by our Non-Disclosure Agreements and Motions to Delay”
“Fire phasers! Pew, pew, pew!”
“The Constitution…has been violated, captain.”
“Outstanding. Continue full communications intercept. File a report with the ship computer, redact, and bury somewhere deep in the janitorial logs.”
“Yes, sir”
“Ahh. Another day, another victory for democracy.”


Brazilian Guy says:

(Those who support Snowden are) “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twenty-somethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years.”
Former NSA and CIA chief Gen. Michael Hayden.

The Startrek bridge has been around in his time.

Am I the only one who finds this hillarious in context?

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

A Phony's Faked-Out Overcompensation.

It’s rather pathetic, actually. Keith Alexander is not a real soldier, as most soldiers understand that term. He’s more of a Pentagon bureaucrat. He seems to have been promoted rapidly, on the strength of knowing about electronics and computers, when other people didn’t. Unfortunately, that isn’t a recommendation in the military, not in the long run. You can be an exemplary computer whiz while living in your mom’s basement, with her bringing snacks down to you every couple of hours. Real officers have to be able to inspire troops. Grunts living in a tent somewhere, and living on MRE’s (Meal, Rejected by Extraterrestrials), want to feel the the boss has some understanding of, and sympathy for their position. Back when I was doing my masters thesis on military honor, back in the late 1980’s, I went around campus, visiting people, and asking for suggestions. When I called on the local ROTC commandant (an artilleryman), he thought about the question, and gave me a training circular, dealing with the experience of being a platoon leader, and being woken up in the middle of the night because two of your buck privates have gotten into a bar fight, and are now sitting in the county jail. So you’ve got to go and spring them, and eat humble pie to the sheriff, to that end. That is very much the department in which Keith Alexander is found wanting. So naturally he feels the need to overcompensate, pretending his office is really a ship at sea. It is indicative of his essentially childish mentality.

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