Core Values: National Security Agency

By | February 11, 2018

[February 11, 2018]  Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. National Security Agency made changes to their published core values (see them below and here on the NSA website).  While the agency received criticism for this change1, that is not as big a problem as we are led to believe by the media. 

First, the criticism.  Changed from the NSA’s original core value list: Honesty, Respect for the Law, Integrity, and Transparency.  This is a pretty good list and it hits the major points for a list of pertinent core values.  Here are the old versus new core values:

Old Core Values New Core Values
Honesty Commitment to Service
Respect for the Law Respect for the Law
Integrity Integrity
Transparency Transparency
  Respect for People
  Accountability

Adding accountability is an excellent addition but the elimination of honesty gives the appearance they no longer value honesty.  However, honesty is assumed under “integrity” but it no longer stands out as before.  For an organization that has been under Congressional scrutiny due to a number of large failures, these changes can be misinterpreted. 

Their unchanged mission statement is where I take issue.  They modify the title from “Mission & Strategy” to “Mission & Values.”  This is an appropriate change because it is more accurate.  Rarely does any organization discuss strategy and if they do it is never intertwined in their mission statement. 

The mission statement itself is unchanged but it has a significant problem in that it does not include all the basics: who, what, when, where, and why.  The “why” is good; “… every activity we engage in is aimed at ensuring the safety, security, and liberty of our fellow citizens.” 

The “who” is the NSA.  The “what” is well stated but the “when” and “where” are nowhere to be seen.  Also, importantly, the mission statement is simply lacking in any overall cohesiveness and does not link well with NSA’s core values. 

Why the change in their website?  That should be obvious.  In part the reason is that the information here needed to be updated but changing their core values at this time invites criticism and is poor optics.  The organization is under fire for having unchecked power. 

These changes were not explained.  The Director of the NSA, USN Admiral Michael S. Rogers, should have his folks address this publicity at some point soon. 

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1.  https://www.inverse.com/article/40660-the-nsa-removed-honesty-from-its-core-values

 

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.