Success Story

NSA and the University of Texas: Supporting National Security and Economic Development Through Innovative Research Partnerships

NSA state and local govt success story graphic

This graphic is an illustration of the NSA - University of Texas partnership and how it fosters research, workforce development, and economic benefits in critical technology areas vital to national security. Image courtesy of NSA Technology Transfer Program.

The National Security Agency (NSA) leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both signals intelligence (SIGINT) and cybersecurity products and services, and enables computer network operations to gain a decision advantage for the nation and our allies under all circumstances. Cybersecurity is also a driving force of the San Antonio, Texas economy, home to the largest concentration of government and private-sector cybersecurity experts and leaders outside of Washington, D.C. While the NSA has long had a significant presence within this technology ecosystem at its Texas Cryptologic Center, the Agency has implemented a new model of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the University of Texas (UT) System. This model now redefines and expands its relationship with the UT System, fostering significant research, workforce development, and economic benefits in critical technology areas vital to national security.

As part of its ongoing engagement with the University of Texas, NSA created in 2018 a first-of-its-kind CRADA that standardizes terms and conditions for specific joint work plans across the 14-institution UT System, resulting in significant improvements in the agility and responsiveness of collaborative research projects. Under the umbrella CRADA, joint work plans can now be structured and approved within weeks, allowing projects to be more responsive to Agency needs and more closely mirror the semester-by-semester cadence of higher education engagement.

Much of the work to date has been concentrated at the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA), a national leader in cybersecurity that has fostered relationships with NSA and other federal agencies involved in intelligence and national security. Along with facilitating research within UTSA, NSA uses the umbrella CRADA to empower collaboration through the UTSA’s National Security Collaboration Center (NSCC), a research center with more than 40 private and public-sector partners, to help a wide range of stakeholders meet shared national security needs. Many of these private and public partners specifically cited the importance of closer collaboration with NSA and other federal agencies in coordinating responses to shared threats and challenges.

The UTSA NSCC has provided a $100-million boost to the local technology ecosystem, which includes an excess of 1,000 technology businesses, 35,000 information technology workers, and an annual economic impact of approximately $12 billion. Federal agency collaboration is a vital part of this ecosystem, with current federal cyber operations in San Antonio accounting for over 7,000 military and civilian jobs. It also supports broader regional and statewide economic development objectives, which identify cybersecurity as a key economic driver throughout the I-35 corridor.

The umbrella CRADA and the collaborations it has facilitated also resulted in significant workforce benefits for NSA and the cybersecurity sector. Throughout the long term strategic relationship, more than 50 UTSA graduates have gone on to become NSA employees, and the Agency partnered with UTSA to create accelerated degree plans in cybersecurity and modern languages. Together, these efforts have helped the Agency and its federal and private sector partners "tackle some of America’s toughest problems," said NSA Texas Commander Col. Gregory J. Gagnon.