(TNS) -- Gov. Larry Hogan and military leaders broke ground for the construction of the new 175th Cyberspace Operations Squadron Facility in a ceremony on Nov. 2.
The facility will be the new headquarters of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, which is part of the Maryland Air National Guard and is the only full spectrum Cyberspace Operations Group in the Air Force.
It will provide operational and command space for missions involving the state of Maryland, the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.
“This is an exciting and long-awaited achievement for the Maryland National Guard and the state of Maryland as we continue to play our part and strengthen our position as the cyber captial of America,” Hogan said in his remarks.
The new building will be a single-story, 9,000-square-foot facility located at the site of Fort Meade’s former golf course.
The estimated completion date of construction is September 2018.
The 175th Cyberspace Operations Group executes a defensive federal mission to protect Air Force and U.S. critical infrastructure against cyber attacks, along with a state mission to assist state and local government. It also conducts offensive cyber exploitation and attack missions against adversaries.
During the past five years, the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group has grown from less than 40 technically proficient operators to 284 professionals. The group is currently headquartered at a smaller facility at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River.
Ritz Construction of Maryland is the general contractor of the $5.5 million project. POND & Company of Atlanta is the principal architect and design-build partner.
Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of Maryland, hosted the ceremony.
Singh is a senior adviser to Hogan and a member of his cabinet. She responsible for the daily operations of the Maryland Military Department, which includes the Maryland Army National Guard, the Maryland Air National Guard, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the Maryland Defense Force.
Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the NSA, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the Central Security Service, participated in the ceremony, along with Brig. Gen. Randolph Staudenraus, commander of the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard.
Lt. Col. Reid Novotny, the deputy commander of 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, served as the emcee.
Master Sgt. Angela Keys of the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard, sang the national anthem. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Christopher Otten, also of the 175th Wing, gave the invocation.
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard welcomed the audience of military leaders and distinguished guests who represented members of Congress, the Anne Arundel County Executive’s Office, U.S. Cyber Command and other cyber operational units.
“On behalf of my senior commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Howard, welcome to Fort George G. Meade, our nation’s platform for intelligence, information and cyber operations,” Rickard said.
Rickard noted Fort Meade’s 100th anniversary and said that the installation “has always been on the leading edge of innovation and of critical capability for our national security.
“We welcome [the] 175th Cyberspace Operations Group to our frontline fort, where our units are actively fighting threats and conducting global operations every day,” he said. “We welcome the powerful skill sets of your professional citizen Airmen as we grow a dynasty of cyber talent in this region for years to come.”
In her remarks, Singh thanked the legislators at the state and federal levels and the leadership of the Maryland National Guard for making the project possible.
“This is more than just a building. This is about taking us to the future. We are going to be thought leaders partnered alongside [some of ] the most professional thought leaders —- Cyber Command. And [it] makes me very proud.”
Hogan said Maryland is a leader in STEM education and in cultivating cyber professionals and the cyber industry.
“Our administration has worked tirelessly to create an unrivaled ecosystem in Maryland to serve and grow our state’s critical cyber security industry and to protect and maintain the nation’s information and infrastructure,” Hogan said.
The governor praised the “service and self-sacrifice” of the Maryland National Guard and said he was pleased to “answer the call for the critical need” for operational space.
Rogers said the construction of the new facility is a reminder of “the power of what happens when multiple organizations come together to achieve the greater good. …
“We have a tough challenge in the cyber arena,” he said. “But with motivated men and women who are appropriately equipped and trained and have the facilities and tools they need, this nation has always met every challenge.”
After the speeches, Hogan, Singh, Rogers and Staudenraus picked up ceremonial shovels and broke the ground for the facility.
The 30-minute ceremony ended with the signing of the the memorandum agreement between the Maryland National Guard and U.S. Cyber Command by Singh and Rear Adm. Timothy White, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, U.S. Cyber Command.
©2017 the Soundoff! (Laurel, Md.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.