Georgia Rallies Partnerships Around Cyber Initiative

The state is launching into a $50 million partnership with academic, federal and business partners to bolster the state's cybersecurity standing.

Officials in the state of Georgia have outlined a plan to boost the state’s cybersecurity positioning through a series of partnerships with academic, federal and private allies in one central location. 
Earlier this week, Gov. Nathan Deal announced an ambitious effort to build the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in conjunction with Augusta University, the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command at Fort Gordon and private-industry partners.
The undertaking is part of a $50 million investment to help the state leverage the region’s existing cyber-resources and further develop the educational opportunities circling the computer science and cybersecurity industry.
“So often, people talk about the way we are going to solve cybersecurity is academia, industry and government agencies are going to have to come together, and really this building is about being a catalyst to bring all of those groups together,” Joanne Sexton, director of the Augusta University Cyber Institute, explained.
The 150,000-square-foot center is set to be constructed and occupied by a mix of public and private partners over the course of the next 18 months. 
“One of the things about the Augusta area, we are very, very fortunate as a university to be located right next door to Fort Gordon, which is the home of the Cyber Center of Excellence, NSA Georgia and the future home of the Army’s Cyber Command Headquarters. So partly, the concept of the state of Georgia, Gov. Deal, his vision of creating this center here is to take advantage of what is already here …”
The center could also address the ongoing challenge of new talent development, which is one Sexton said she sees playing out at the state level. Within the public sector, the training and retention of new staff has been an ongoing challenge nationwide – especially as private-sector jobs tend to pay more and offer more flexibility.
By focusing opportunities and resources into one location, Sexton and other officials are hopeful that students will hone their skill sets and become valuable assets in government and private industry.
Under current plans, businesses will be able to rent space in the state-owned, university-managed facility next to academic and public-sector cohorts. Sexton refers to the potential for idea sharing as “cross-pollination.” 
“We certainly hope that industries think that this is definitely a winning solution that they want to be part of,” she said. “From the university standpoint, the fact that our students will actually go to school in this center and they can just go walk across the hallway and rub elbows with the professionals who they want to be like, what an opportunity.”
“In cyber, it’s all about hands on activity and keeping your skills very, very fresh. Well, we need a mechanism to do that. And that’s what this center is.”
In a statement, Fort Gordon’s Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr. said the addition of the cyber-range to the mix of the center’s offerings provide additional opportunity to parter with the larger community. 
“With the establishment of Fort Gordon as the Army's Cyber Center of Excellence and soon as the Headquarters for Army Cyber Command, Fort Gordon will quickly become the hub of Cyberspace Operations for the Army,” he said. “Investments such as the cyber-range will not only enable our nation to maintain its advantage in a highly contested cyberspace domain, it will also allow for the type of partnerships between the Department of Defense, academia, and industry that is required to attract, produce, and retain the caliber of workforce necessary to be a global leader in cyberspace operations and cyber technologies.”
Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at