The decision to consolidate all U.S. cyberspace training into a new center of excellence at Fort Gordon rests in the hands of Congress, the Army post’s commanding general said Tuesday at a national technology conference in Augusta.
Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson could not speak in detail about the restructuring plan that could bring more than 1,500 soldiers to Fort Gordon to learn the secrets of tracking electromagnetic activity worldwide, but said the Army is onboard with the effort.
The commander gave the keynote address at TechNet Augusta, a three-day conference by the International Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association that has more than 2,000 people and 140 exhibitors in town to develop ways to connect troops through enhanced technology, command and control functions.
“Not that I’m trying to sell anything or use this stage as a public-service-announcement podium, but should the Army make a decision on where a Cyber Center of Excellence should go, my vote is here,” Patterson said. “The footprint is clearly in place.”
Patterson said he feels confident Fort Gordon can win the support it needs to earn the designation. Still, he said there are no signs the deal will be inked and that a vote before Congress will not happen until at least after the debate over military action in Syria is resolved.
Patterson said designating the post as a Cyber Center of Excellence would mark one of the most significant reorganizations in U.S. intelligence and generate major growth for the region.
Centers of excellence chiefs can collaborate or coordinate outside the confines of their station, Patterson said.
Patterson said Fort Gordon is home to 1,350 sailors, 800 airmen and 150 Marines working on initiatives and teaching cyber intelligence classes in support of the National Security Agency’s Georgia Cryptology Center, which opened in March 2012.
Patterson said Fort Gordon has more inline brigades than any other post or station in the Army and is a senior partner with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Trinity Hospital and Georgia Regents University.
“As the Army tries to revamp and rebuild itself for 2020 and beyond, it is important that we keep up with the needs of the enterprise that support the war fighter,” Patterson said.
He asked manufacturers to make equipment simpler to enable soldiers and commanders to move and react quicker.
As the Army draws down 80,000 soldiers by 2017, Patterson said, he will have to reduce force structure and pay grades at Fort Gordon.
“What we do in the signal regiment in terms of staying on the cutting edge of (information technology) is very complex and complicated,” Patterson said. “We need to find a sweet spot as to how far can I go down the grade until I break into experience and knowledge. Can I trust a captain to do what a major used to do?”
Lt. Gen. John A. Dubia, the executive vice president of the International Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and a former field artillery officer, said local leaders designed TechNet to foster discussions among decision-makers in military communications.
“Events such as this will build the bench of the future and get into the hands of the war fighter what he or she needs regardless of service or ally,” Dubia said. “Education changes all the rules and that is what AFCEA is all about.”
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said the sight of the new convention center in use excited him and showed the city, ranked second last year in technology job growth, was built for innovation.
“We have great things going on in the city of Augusta,” the mayor said.