NSA wants millennial talent without millennial perks

Got talent? The kind of whiz-kid computer skills that could help the government get ahead of hacker adversaries? The National Security Agency wants you.

But you can't bring your smartphone.

This isn't a new policy for NSA, or for any high-security building in the intelligence community or even some military facilities. Whether you work there or are just visiting, when you show up you leave your phone in the glove box of your car. And if you're a millennial, your fingers probably twitch for the duration of your time inside.

The no-phone rule — and its fellow no-activity-trackers, no-tablets, no-Bluetooth-anything edicts — is a sort of emblem of the government's struggle to attract young talent lured elsewhere not only by technology access, but higher salaries and other shiny, interesting perks.

"I think we're all having the same problem. It's not just a government or industry problem — it's a holistic problem in keeping people excited and satisfied in this world," Corin Stone, NSA executive director, said Sept. 9 at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington. "There are obvious downsides we hear all the time, like you can't bring a cell phone in the building. We're trying to get creative about how we emphasize the mission, what we have that others don't have … we can work on things here that you can't work on anywhere else. It's exciting and it's fun and it is, in other cases, illegal — really cool stuff."

So, no treadmills at desks, no gourmet lunches, but a chance to get hands-on experience and serve your country. Intelligence community agencies also are working on expanding "joint duty" programs that rotate government employees into industry for periods of time, and vice versa, to get a better idea of each side's problems and solutions.

"We're very aware of the fact that the industry that we're in is moving at light speed and if we don't reach out to these folks who are innovating on the ground every day, and not necessarily the obvious folks, we're going to be left in the dust. We need to tap into the talent that's out there," Stone said. "If you have ideas that don't involve allowing cell phones into the buildings, we would love to hear that."

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