NSA Utah Data Center Construction Delayed After Accidents Caused by Negligence

The NSA data center currently under construction in Bluffdale, Utah, is facing severe electrical problems. A type of electrical explosion called an “arc flash” has occurred 10 times in the 13 months the government data center has been in development – each incident causes damage, melts equipment, poses a threat to the safety of the workers, and costs up to $100,000.

NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines assures the Wall Street Journal that “the failures that occurred during testing have been mitigated. A project of this magnitude requires stringent management, oversight, and testing before the government accepts any building.” However, the Wall Street Journal reports that contractors are still investigating the cause of the arch flashes.

Forbes believes the incidents are caused by intentional neglect:

“The problem, and we all know it, is that they put the appliances too close together,” a person familiar with the database construction told Forbes, describing the arcs as creating ”kill zones.” “They used wiring that’s not adequate to the task.”

The Wall Street Journal confirms some of the issues: “Backup generators have failed numerous tests … and officials disagree about whether the cause is understood … There are also disagreements among government officials and contractors over the adequacy of the electrical control systems, a project official said, and the cooling systems also remain untested.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the arc flashes are caused by “fast tracking” the data center construction and ignoring “regular quality controls in design and construction.”

The already controversial data center is now facing even more questions. The facility is estimated to cost $1 billion just to create, and another $20 million each year to maintain. It was also supposed to be completed and online in September – the delay is likely to cost even more. Utah residents are torn in their opinions on the data center, with most disagreeing with the NSA’s citizen spying but also happy about the job opportunities the data center will create. How will they feel when they learn that the government cares more about speed in this project than the safety of the workers?

Fibernet Corp recognizes some of the challenges of maintaining the safety of both employees and equipment in a data center. Unlike the NSA data center, Fibernet Corp respects the quality controls necessary to keep a data center safe: our data center is above industry standards, complete with contingency plans and multiple replacement parts in case of any emergency. Admittedly, a smaller data center is much easier to regulate than the NSA’s vastly huge Bluffdale data center. However, a smaller data center than 1.5 million square feet (the size of the NSA data center) can guarantee 99.999% uptime and reliability for its customers.


Miller, Rich. “NSA Data Center Plagued by Electrical Problems.” http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/10/08/nsa-data-center-plagued-by-electrical-problems/. (8 Oct. 2013).

Hill, Kashmir. “The NSA’s Hugely Expensive Utah Data Center Has Major Electrical Problems And Basically Isn’t Working.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/10/07/the-nsas-hugely-expensive-utah-data-center-has-major-electrical-problems-and-basically-isnt-working/. (8 Oct. 2013).