The decision to make the post the permanent home of the Cyber Command headquarters was hailed by federal officials as a cost-saving maneuver that will help the country better combat emerging Internet and computer-based threats to national security.
In addition to relocating the command to Fort Gordon, the Army will establish a standing joint task force and a provisional cyber center of excellence on the post. Each effort will be led by a three-star commander.
Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, the commanding officer of Fort Gordon, described the announcement as a proud moment for the post, its leaders and its military population of 15,000 service members.
“This is a tremendous day for everyone at Fort Gordon,” Patterson said in a statement. “The day-to-day defense of our information and data resources is a no-fail mission, and we will prepare the Army’s cyber warriors of today and tomorrow for success in this critical effort.”
Augusta officials rejoiced at the news Thursday, saying the addition will spark exponential growth in the city and metropolitan area by attracting defense contractors nationwide to expand their operations locally. At the moment, Fort Gordon generates a regional economic impact of $1.4 billion annually.
“This is truly a game changer for our economy,” Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said. “I don’t believe the overall impact can be overstated. It’s just that big.”
Copenhaver said he had expected an announcement before the end of the year in Fort Gordon’s favor after several defense contractors asked to tour the city since it played host in September to TechNet Augusta, a military conference that drew 2,600 guests – 1,600 more than anticipated.
The Army base had competed with Fort Meade, Md., for four years to become the command’s new headquarters and lead a cyber corps of 21,000 soldiers and civilians that plans, coordinates and conducts operations in defense of all Army networks worldwide.
What finally gave Fort Gordon the nod, Army officials said, was its ability to join forces with the National Security Agency at Fort Gordon. Collaboration with the NSA is expected save the Army Cyber Command 150 personnel positions and cut military construction costs by nearly 25 percent, according to a Defense Department news release.
“Cyber threats are real, sophisticated, growing, and evolving,” said Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon, the commanding general of the Cyber Command, in a news release. “The Army’s decision demonstrates support for unity of command and the importance of cyber to our Army and our nation.”
Established in 2010 in response to emerging cyber threats worldwide, the Army Cyber Command has about 500 employees temporarily housed among seven government buildings and leased space across the Washington, D.C., area.
As the elected representative for Fort Gordon, District 4 Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason said he was pleased with the news. He thanked the command group and staff at Fort Gordon for their work in bringing the facility to Augusta.
“This announcement is indicative of the importance of Fort Gordon and the Augusta area to our national security,” he said. “This will be a great economic (boon) with the creation of thousands of jobs and personnel coming into our local economy.”
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a leading advocate of Fort Gordon, worked closely with senior leaders of the Army and the Cyber Command to relocate the network’s headquarters to a more spacious facility in Augusta before his retirement next year.
The movement of analysts to Georgia is expected to require interim stationing during construction.
“Establishing this command at Fort Gordon builds on the existing intelligence and cyber capabilities on post, provides the most cost-effective solution in a time of fiscal austerity, and takes advantage of the unmatched quality of life provided by the city of Augusta and surrounding area,” Chambliss, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Basing this increasingly important capability at (Fort) Gordon is the right thing to do for the Army and the national security of the United States.”
Staff Writer Susan McCord contributed to this article.