Georgia will be home to a new cybersecurity innovation and training center, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday.
Deal announced $50 million in funding to establish the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, which will be located in Augusta, Georgia, on the border with South Carolina. The center will be owned by the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) and operated through a memorandum of understanding with Augusta University for day-to-day operations, according to a fact sheet. There will be a groundbreaking on the facility in the spring, and it’s expected to open within 18 months thereafter. GTA will also run the Georgia Cybersecurity Academy out of the facility.
The announcement and eventual construction of the center is the next step after the creation of a 2016 cybersecurity board, established by Deal and chaired by Calvin Rhodes, the state CIO.
“Georgia’s Cyber Innovation and Training Center will bring together partners from education, government and industry in a state-of-the-art environment,” Rhodes said in a statement. “The center will foster the alignment in training and technology that we need for the future.”
It won’t be the only government cybersecurity operation in Augusta, however. The city is also home to the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and a National Security Agency facility. It will also soon be the home of the U.S. Army Cyber Command.
“Cybersecurity is especially important now that cybercrime is bigger than the global black market for marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined,” Deal said in a statement. “The protection of Georgia’s citizens, businesses and institutions in the digital realm is becoming significantly more necessary as cybercrime continues to grow.”
In addition to providing a platform for state and local governments to come together to develop standards around cybersecurity and response tactics to cyberthreats, the center will also be a research hub. GTA will partner with the Georgia university system, the Augusta University Cyber Institute, the Technical College System of Georgia, local school systems, the Georgia National Guard, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, federal agencies and the private sector.
“Our ability to face emerging cyber threats depends on the right training and the right tools,” Stanton Gatewood, Georgia’s chief information security officer, said in a statement. “[The center] will provide both in a groundbreaking approach. Together, we will develop a cyber-workforce equipped with the education and real-world practice required in a rapidly changing world.”
The center will include a “sensitive compartmented information facility,” or SCIF, as well as various central processing unit architectures and field-programmable gate arrays to assist with training.
In the statement announcing the center, the NSA commended Deal for the initiative and recognized the significance of placing the center in Augusta.
“The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center will allow our best and brightest from both the private and public sector to develop critical relationships in an innovative and collaborative training environment,” the NSA said in a statement. “This location takes full advantage of NSA’s growing relationship with Augusta University, as well as the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence on Fort Gordon, and Army Cyber Command in the near future.”
Deal’s initial $50 million investment in the center includes $41.5 million for construction, $2.1 million for staffing, $1.8 million for planning, design, utilities and marketing and $4.6 million to cover staff and operating costs until the building is fully leased.
The announcement comes just more than a month after the office of Georgia’s Secretary of State reported an attempted breach of its network by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Shortly after the attempted breach was reported, DHS said it was legitimate work, and was not a hack. As of Dec. 12, 2016, the office was working with DHS to resolve the matter.