Plans by the Department of Defense for a massive expansion of the joint U.S. Cyber Command have been reported in recent weeks, with some accounts speculating that as many as 4,000 personnel could be added by 2016.
Thom Tuckey, the executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, said he has heard the reports and thinks they could be good news for the Army installation because it specializes in the training these soldiers will need.
“Those people are trained here,” Tuckey said. “I would expect a likely increase in the student load (at Fort Gordon).”
About 17,000 active and reserve military personnel from all four services train at Fort Gordon each year, according to spokesman J.C. Mathews. That includes all Army personnel who need skills required by cyber security and warfare.
“Fort Gordon hosts the Army Signal Center of Excellence, home to all the Army’s computer training, and that training would be applicable to any unit, anywhere, that requires soldiers with advanced information technology training,” he said.
Mathews said Fort Gordon also is where Signal Corps has its Information Protection Technician course for warrant officers.
“As far as the future is concerned, the Army is studying the addition of new enlisted and officer specialties for the protection of information systems,” he said. “Current plans call for that training to take place at Fort Gordon, should the Army establish those career fields.”
How much Fort Gordon will benefit beyond that remains to be seen.
Tuckey said there is a behind-the-scenes struggle to determine where the Army’s headquarters for its Cyber Command will be. Some want it at Fort Gordon, while other powerful elements are lobbying for Fort Meade, Md. He said the “next decision point” is about three months away, but there is an active effort to present Fort Gordon as the best choice for the command headquarters.
Among those seeking to move Army Cyber Command to Georgia is U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, according to his spokeswoman, Bronwyn Lance Chester.
“Sen. Chambliss has been actively advocating for it to be based at Fort Gordon,” Lance Chester said Thursday.
Letters obtained by The Augusta Chronicle give a glimpse of the political effort involved.
An April 27 letter signed by Chambliss, Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Reps. John Barrow, Jack Kingston and Paul Broun merely asks Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh to “seriously consider” Fort Gordon for Army Cyber Command. But a Jan. 16 letter, signed by Chambliss and Isakson, makes a stronger case, touting it as the center of Signal intelligence for the Army, the site of the National Security Agency’s Central Security Service-Georgia and “a host of ancillary joint cyber and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance units.”
The letter also points out the economic sense for growing Fort Gordon, both “in initial investment and long-term sustainment costs,” as opposed to other Army facilities.
Tuckey said that could be one of the strongest arguments in a time of fiscal austerity. He said although Fort Meade – home of U.S. Cyber Command – is closer to the Washington, D.C., power structure, if the military intends to add personnel and build new buildings, the Augusta area will be a lot less expensive than Maryland.
“Economically, we could hands down offer a better quality of life,” he said. “From that perspective we are very competitive.”
Growth in the area of cyber security also has the potential to diminish the effects of plans to reduce the Army’s force by 70,000 personnel in coming years. While there have been no specific announcements of reductions at Fort Gordon, plans to add cyber warriors could offset cuts in other areas, if they come.
“What we might lose in satellite operators we are going to gain back in cyber specialists,” Tuckey said. “For every satellite radio operator we lose there are going to be two cyber security people in their place.”