Base, universities to pool resources for new cyber security center
The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser
The city of Montgomery is planning a new $20 million, cyber security education center that would unite instruction from Alabama State University, Auburn Montgomery and Troy University under one roof — and they may have help from the Air Force.
Organizers have submitted a proposal to the state Legislature outlining plans for the state-of-the-art facility that could be used by businesses, governments and others for data security training, degree programs and certification. It would include public meeting space as well as dedicated instruction areas for each of the participating universities.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said that bringing all of the entities together would create a “critical mass” of students while also giving the city a chance to offer certification programs that aren’t currently available.
“We can bring new market tax credits to the equation, both federal and state,” Strange said. “We can provide the property to do that.”
They may not have to. Strange said early discussions with Air Force officials led to the idea of using space inside Maxwell’s Jeanne M. Holm Center, the 47,000-square-foot building that houses the headquarters of the Air Force’s ROTC and JROTC programs. That would “save a ton of dollars,” Strange said.
While the city plans to continue pursuing all of its options for now, Strange said the initial response from all sides is a sign that the idea behind the center is a good one.
“The military has bought in,” he said. “They think it’s a really good idea. The state is indicating their people think it’s a good idea, particularly given the incursion you had in the last couple of months.”
The state hired an information security company to help institute tighter controls after its computer network was hacked in January. On Feb. 12, the Alabama Senate passed a proposal to create an authority overseeing the system as well as the position of state technology secretary.
Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex manage a massive amount of sensitive data for the Department of Defense, including military medical records. Its 26th Network Operations Squadron serves as a “cyber warfare” anti-hacking unit for the military.
City officials also see an opportunity for the base to become one of four regional technology hubs as the Air Force consolidates its worldwide facilities. With the right infrastructure in place, that could mean an expanded role and even more resources for the base.
Yet, Strange noted that the cyber security experts at Maxwell currently must leave the city for training.
“Rather than sending people off elsewhere to get certified or get degrees, perhaps we could do it right here in Montgomery,” he said. “That’s the goal. We’re just on the early front end of trying to determine where the synergies are and where the best location might be.
“Security obviously is a big issue. There’s not much more secure than having something at Maxwell.”