A "Star Trek"-inspired command center was once NSA Director Keith Alexander’s pride and joy, apparently. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say it was it one of his chief means of impressing lawmakers and winning support in Washington’s corridors of power.
No, we’re not making this up. It’s a bit unearthed by Foreign Policy magazine in a lengthy profile of General Alexander titled “The Cowboy of the NSA.” When he was chief of the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many civilian officials and members of Congress down to Fort Belvoir, in suburban Washington, to tour his Information Dominance Center, writes FP’s Shane Harris.
“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,” writes Mr. Harris.
Alexander’s visitors were generally awed by the Trekkie atmosphere, including a swivel in the iconic captain’s chair. Then they were further awed by Alexander’s clear, folksy explanations of modern information technology. His approach to wooing the powerful has won him lots of political support in official Washington, according to FP.
There’s some question as to who actually ordered the Enterprise-like space. The Washington Post reports it wasn’t Alexander. It was built in 1998, according to the Post’s Emily Heil. Alexander did not take the Intelligence and Security Command job until 2001.
Here’s our question: Is there something about "Star Trek" that is uniquely appealing to the men and women who are running the United States? Because this isn’t the only example of the use of "Star Trek" mythology within the government.
In 2010 Internal Revenue Service staff members produced an entire spoof "Star Trek" video for an agency conference. The six-minute film – for a meeting whose theme was “Leading Into the Future” – was produced on an Enterprise set built at the IRS audio-visual studies in New Carrollton, Md.
This spoof featured a trip to the planet NoTax, where chaos ruled over order. The narrative developed, if that’s a word that applies, from there. The actors were actual IRS officials, who bought or made their own costumes. Thankfully, nobody said anything about going where no deduction has gone before.
Yes, these are only two examples, but they’re pretty elaborate ones, if you ask us. Do any New York banks have Star Trek-inspired command centers? Back in June, National Journal published a piece about how "Star Trek" actually explains the NSA – given that the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" TV spinoff featured an NSA-like electronic intelligence agency named Section 31.
Maybe it’s the sort of person who comes to Washington. As pointed out in “This Town,” the book exploring Washington’s insular culture by New York Times writer Mark Leibovich, it is the student body presidents of American who gravitate to the nation’s capital, not the jocks or artsy types. Perhaps these earnest types feel they are Captain Kirk, or Picard, at heart.