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Air Force to add up to 1,440 employees to San Antonio cyber mission

Personnel of the 624th Operations Center, located at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, conduct cyber operations.

SAN ANTONIO — The Air Force will expand its cyber mission in San Antonio, bringing up to 1,440 troops and civilian workers to the city this fall.

Joint Base San Antonio was selected to host three cyber protection teams to operate under the 24th Air Force at Port San Antonio.

An environmental assessment has to be done before the move occurs, but that action is seen as a mere formality. The first airmen should arrive in early October.

“I think that's huge for San Antonio,” said Rep. Pete Gallego, who was told of the decision early Wednesday. “Imagine what happens to our country if in San Antonio somebody shuts down CPS and nobody has electricity and nobody has air-conditioning.

“Those threats are not fictional anymore. Those threats are real,” he said, adding that making San Antonio a hub of cyber security “is a win-win not only for the local economy and the regional economy. But also, frankly, it's a great thing for Texas to be on the cutting edge of this technology.”

San Antonio is home to both the 24th Air Force and the NSA, and is seen as a likely location for cyber defense missions. Joint Base San Antonio is getting the additional military and civilian workers because of its high-speed network capacity, proximity to commanders, facilities available for quick occupancy and what the Air Force called the “low-cost option” for taxpayers.

The city also was chosen because of what the Air Force called “optimized cyber mission synergy” — an apparent reference to the 24th Air Force and the NSA, a shadowy organization that is believed to have 3,000 workers here.

Property tax records show the NSA facility on the far West Side has grown by nearly 135,000 square feet, from nearly 498,000 square feet to almost 633,000. In 2008, the facility was worth $33.5 million, but it is now valued at more than $72 million.

Gallego, D-Alpine and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has pushed for growth in the Air Force's cyber mission. He offered an amendment to allow the government to focus more on cyber threats and allow it to hire veterans for cyber-security jobs.

“This is pool,” Gallego said. “This is setting up your next shot, and I always want to make sure when we're setting up San Antonio's next shot we have a good shot at making sure that we continue to build our infrastructure in such a way that San Antonio will be a player for years to come in national defense issues.”

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