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Army Cyber seeks command center site at Gordon or Meade

Nov. 6, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOE GOULD   |   Comments
Col. Jeffery Schilling, chief of current operations, briefs Secretary of the Army John McHugh on the functions and activities on the 'watch floor' at U.S. Army Cyber Command during McHugh's visit April 2, 2012, at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Col. Jeffery Schilling, chief of current operations, briefs Secretary of the Army John McHugh on the functions and activities on the 'watch floor' at U.S. Army Cyber Command during McHugh's visit April 2, 2012, at Fort Belvoir, Va. (Spc. John G. Martinez/Army)
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Army Cyber Command plans to lead a worldwide corps of 21,000 soldiers and civilians from a proposed 179,000-square foot command center at either Fort Meade, Md., or Fort Gordon, Ga., according to an Army report.

The planned facility would accommodate 1,500 military, civilian and contract personnel, which represents a threefold expansion of the command’s workforce. Today the three-year-old organization is split between Fort Meade, where 156 people work in four locations, and Fort Belvoir, Va., where 343 people work for the command.

One option for consolidating Army Cyber’s headquarters would pump a cumulative $829 million into the surrounding economy by 2019, when the facility is projected to be operational. Army projections say it will sustain 2,300 jobs annually.

Details of the secretive command’s expansion plans emerged in an 878-page environmental impact assessment dated August which outlines seven alternatives—two at Fort Meade and five at Fort Gordon—as well as the impact of not building new facilities.

An Army Cyber spokesperson told Army Times, “the stationing decision is pending,” but could not say when the decision would be made or who would make it.

Army Cyber’s present facilities are “unsuitable for accomplishing the current mission and do not have adequate space to support all of the incoming personnel,” says the report, approved by headquarters project manager Aaron Ross, of Army Cyber Command/2nd Army Engineers.

“The existing facilities are in poor condition and do not meet current standards and safety requirements, including building construction, fire protection, and electrical codes,” the report states.

Shiny metal panels and an upholstered captain’s chair adorned the headquarters at Fort Belvoir when Army Secretary John McHugh visited on April 2, 2012. The Army released photos trumpeting the visit.

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One military cyber researcher called the plans “no surprise” given the Defense Department’s efforts to rapidly grow its cyber workforce. The size of the facility, given the need to accommodate workers, computers, servers and cooling equipment was “almost too small,” said Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Jeff Moulton.

Each of the services supply personnel to U.S. Cyber Command, and Moulton questioned why the Defense Department would build a facility for only one service.

“When we need to defend against a cyber attack, does it need to be AF blue, Army green or Navy white?” he said. “Do we need a service-centric cyber corps, or would the DoD be better served with a cyber corps that supported the services? We need to ask ourselves how we organize to get the most efficiencies.”

Since the Army activated Army Cyber Command/ 2nd Army in 2010, it established its first cyber brigade, the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, at Fort Meade. The 780th is staffing up two battalions, the 781st M.I. Battalion at Fort Meade and the 782nd M.I. Battalion at Fort Gordon.

The report does not express a preference between the posts. One difference between plans for the post is that Army Cyber personnel would need interim stationing with Fort Gordon, where personnel would have to be relocated on a temporary basis to several buildings that might need renovations.

Fort Meade is home to National Security Agency headquarters and the Defense Information System Agency, among 90 partner organizations from across the services and the federal government.

Fort Gordon, home to the Army Signals Corps and the NSA’s Georgia Cryptologic Center, is the Army’s largest communications training facility and the focal point for the development of tactical communications and information systems.

The Georgia post is also the site Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno recommended as a new Cyber Center of Excellence, which would consolidate cyber, electronic warfare and signals training in a single site.

On Oct. 29, Army Cyber opened an $18 million, 53,250-square foot network operations center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., meant to operate, maintain and defend the Army’s cyber realm within the Western Hemisphere.

The 7th Signal Command (Theater), 2d Regional Cyber Center, merges a Theater Network Operations and Security Center and the South Regional Computer Emergency Response into a single unit. About 30 soldiers, 30 civilians and 350 contractors will comprise it.

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