The commanding general of the Army Cyber Command said Thursday that over the next five years Augusta will become a “city of innovation and transformation” as thousands of soldiers and civilians flock to the area to develop new software and technology in defense of national security.
Serving as the keynote speaker of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 106th annual meeting, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon described Fort Gordon as a “magical unit” that he believes will pump new energy into the Army’s growing mission of cyber warfare.
Though the command is not expected to move to Fort Gordon until 2019, Cardon said last week the Army approved his request for a new joint-force headquarters and that by this summer, 50 of his staffers will move to the area to begin to lay the groundwork for the new operations.
Cardon said when the new Army Cyber Command is complete, it will work in conjunction with the National Security Agency’s Fort Gordon complex, and a new Cyber Center of Excellence and Cyber Mission Unit.
“The synergy, the effectiveness and the efficiency that will be gleaned from that will be truly stunning,” Cardon said.
In his first four months of leading the Army Cyber Command, Cardon said he has learned by visiting with tech companies nationwide, such as Microsoft, Verizon, Amazon and IBM, that his unit’s mission is not about technology, but people.
He said the Army Cyber Command is in recruiting mode, looking for the right people to protect the billion people who log on to computers daily.
Cardon said 30 percent of the Army Cyber Command’s workforce will be civilians and help keep pace with new technology, which he said is growing at such an alarming rate that even those in the industry have difficulty predicting its growth.
“I worry every day if we are going to be ready,” he said.
Local officials have also expressed concern over whether Augusta will be ready to handle the Fort Gordon growth.
By 2019, the new units are projected to add 2,600 military, 900 civilian and 200 contractor jobs to the post’s workforce. The Cyber Center of Excellence will boost the post’s student population by about 500 service members annually, figures show.
In all, the estimated growth will result in 5,620 military, civilian and contractor family members moving to the Augusta area, based on Army modeling projections.
The total includes 2,150 spouses and 1,800 children, two areas of growth that officials believe will greatly raise the demand for off-post housing and schools.
Larry Jones, who accepted the board of directors’ gavel as its new chairman Thursday, said the area is ready to take on challenges it faces in public education, transportation and housing.
“The chamber will be a partner, facilitator or whatever we need to do to
make sure our region is worthy of these wonderful opportunities,” he said. “We will roll up our sleeves and help lift.”
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver agreed. Using the recent ice storm and the Masters Tournament as examples, he said Augusta always seems to pull together when big events come to town.
“I believe we will embrace cyber and rise to the occasion, and I am looking forward to a wonderful working relationship that will just continue to build on what’s already here in our community
and Fort Gordon,” he said.
Cardon said he knows Augusta and Fort Gordon will deliver.
“Magical units are units where people want to come to work every day, contribute and pump new energy into the organization,” he said. “That is what I feel here, and cannot wait for Army Cyber to be a part of this magic.”