New Augusta center to be new training ground for cyber warfare

AUGUSTA —- A new training on the banks of the Savannah River here will help bolster Georgia and Augusta’s status as a cyber intelligence and information security hub, officials said Monday at a groundbreaking ceremony.

The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, a now $60 million educational complex in downtown Augusta, will become the state's centerpiece for cyber security research and development. It will merge public and private sector security research and serve the workforce needs of the U.S. Army, which recently announced the establishment of its Cyber Command in nearby Fort Gordon, the NSA, as well as the security needs of industry and state agencies.

The project was once slated to be about $50 million, but demand from the private sector to lease space to help develop new defenses and incubate new companies has caused it to grow in size, officials said. Crews have a tight deadline to open the center, with the state expecting to cut a ribbon on the new facility in July 2018.

The more than 160,000-square foot building, at Augusta University’s future downtown riverfront campus, will also feature classroom space for the university and state technical colleges. The research facilities will be cleared for top secret work and include a “cyber range” where new cyberwarfare capabilities can be created and tested.

Gov. Nathan Deal said the nation has never needed a training facility like this more than today, citing a range of threats to the private sector and government from rogue hackers and groups backed by nation-states.

“The attack is ever present and it is something we all need to be aware of,” Deal said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Augusta is a major hub in the government’s sprawling intelligence-gathering network.

Thousands of code breakers, cyber security researchers, intelligence analysts, IT experts and other specialists — military members and private contract employees — work in the intelligence community at Fort Gordon, which includes an NSA installation, and more are on their way.

In November, Army broke ground on its new Cyber Command, which will open its first phase in 2018. Fortune magazine in April listed Augusta as one of the seven cities in the world that “could become the world’s cybersecurity capital.”

More land is available on the 17-acre campus, and Augusta University President Brooks Keel said additional phases of the campus are possible in the years ahead.

In addition to the state’s investment, city leaders also have committed up to $12 million for a parking facility.

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