Wednesday’s announcement that the state of Georgia will invest $50 million to create the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center is exciting for the state, energizing for Augusta and galvanizing for our university. Such generosity will not only further solidify the city of Augusta as a leading hub of cybersecurity innovation and education, it will allow us to further our own cyber education initiatives while building on the rich partnerships we’ve already formed with the military and defense industry.
Without a doubt, the world-class cyber range, one of only a very few state-owned cyber ranges in the nation, will be transformational for the local economy, and by being located adjacent to our Riverfront Campus, formerly the Augusta Golf and Gardens, we have the good fortune of hosting this permanent and very important investment in our security and our future. While other institutions will be located at the 150,000-square-foot facility, it will also be home to our own Cyber Institute, putting our students and faculty in the same space as state and local agencies, not to mention the cybersecurity startups that will be eager to take advantage of the incubator space that’s also part of the plan.
Though the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center will be funded by the state, we at Augusta University have been forging important relationships to prepare for this increased cyber presence ever since the 2013 announcement of Fort Gordon’s mission expansion.
For the past two years, we have hosted Cyber Georgia, a two-day event that brings cybersecurity experts from across the country together to discuss cyber threats, education and recruitment. For the past two summers, with help from grants by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), we have hosted GenCyber camps for high school students and middle school teachers. We also have ongoing and very significant partnerships with Philips, Cerner and Beckman Coulter, all international leaders in health information security and health care technologies.
Last year was a bellwether year in terms of this cyber emphasis. Not only did we officially cut the ribbon for the 9,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Cyber Institute on the Summerville Campus, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence to share resources and develop a cyber-trained workforce. And in the fall, we signed an articulation agreement with the NSA’s National Cryptologic School (NCS) that increases educational opportunities for NCS students by allowing them to earn their undergraduate degree at Augusta University.
These partnerships are important for a number of reasons. Not only will they help increase university enrollment by providing opportunities for military and security personnel to pursue and complete their degrees, but they fit seamlessly into our mission to provide leadership and excellence in teaching, discovery, clinical care and service.
In addition, these relationships provide existing and future students the chance to have those high impact, hands-on research and internship opportunities they wouldn’t have had if we remained siloed. And after graduation, these students will have increased employment chances with these and the many other companies that will be relocating to the area, if not this new facility itself, to be closer to the workforce and innovation that will be based in Augusta.
Only the briefest glance at the national and international headlines shows how necessary these jobs are. The global demand for cyber workers is expected to grow by 20 percent during the next decade.
Another benefit to our military and defense partnerships is the prospect for faculty on both sides of the equation to obtain joint appointments. This is a great opportunity for students, and it’s particularly exciting for faculty. Some NSA faculty have already participated in our faculty development activities, and we’d like to include more.
It’s also important to note that as we help more and more people meet their educational and professional aspirations, we are also expanding the Augusta University family, whether by graduating new alumni or by forming positive, lasting bonds with important members of the community. These ambassadors are our proudest accomplishments and can be our most persuasive advocates, and it’s important that we continue to find new ways to integrate ourselves into the exciting world that’s developing around us.