University President Envisions ‘Cyber Village’ Sprouting outside Ft. Gordon

Augusta University, part of Georgia’s public university system, is planning on expanding its cybersecurity program in response to the growing cyber mission at nearby Fort Gordon.

“We will be a destination campus for kids who want to get into cybersecurity and all of its offshoots — computer science, information technology, health informatics, all of those sorts of things,” University President Brooks Keel told the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce last week.

The consolidation of Army Cyber Command at the Augusta, Ga., post also offers the promise of a host of economic development opportunities for eastern Georgia, he said.

Keel pointed to a campus at Fort Meade that hosts contractors and University of Maryland facilities as a possible model that Augusta University could aim for. Augusta University has been considering a vacant textile mill as a potential location that could accommodate classes, attract businesses and provide space for research. There would be a variety of benefits for companies to locate in close proximity to the university, he said, reported the Augusta Chronicle.

“They’re going to be hiring the types of people Augusta University is going to be graduating,” Keel said.

The university president envisioned creating a “cyber village” at the former textile mill, complete with data centers powered by cheap energy generated onsite.

“It’s the perfect storm. It’s the confluence of things that are beginning to come together that I think we as a community need to really start doing now to try to make that happen,” Keel said.

Left unanswered, however, is how the university would move forward. Keel said he did not expect the state or the university to purchase the Sibley Mill site, which would require extensive renovations. The university has held discussions with the owner of the site, and Keel suggested a public-private partnership could be the best way to advance the project.

“It’s a short, finite window of opportunity for us to do it,” he said.

Two years ago, the Army said it would co-locate its cyber headquarters at Fort Gordon with its Joint Forces Headquarters-Cyber and a National Security Agency facility, placing the service’s operational cyber headquarters alongside the majority of its cyber mission forces. The post also is home to the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence, formerly the U.S. Army Signal Center.

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