Industry and academia have cut back on hiring. But the secretive National Security Agency needs more than a few good mathematicians and has sacrificed some of its cherished anonymity to recruit them.
At a time when the NSA plans to trim its overall work force by about 15 percent, the high-technology spy agency near Fort Meade is aggressively recruiting people with degrees in mathematics.
The agency, which refuses to cite numbers, already claims to be thelargest employer of mathematicians in the United States.
Mathematical minds are prized because they are so versatile, said Dr. Richard J. Shaker, the NSA's chief of math research.
Specialists in algebra, number theory, combinatorics and other esoteric arts often are drafted to do work outside their narrow fields. Some of these theoreticians have "provided big breakthroughs needed for our work in communications, engineering, speech research, signals processing and the design and implementation of powerful, specialized computers," Dr. Shaker said in a speech at a meeting of national math groups in Baltimore last month.