The Next Cyber Hub

Dr. Tom Clark, Executive Director of the Alliance for Fort Gordon

The Next Cyber Hub

In 2003, the Alliance for Fort Gordon was established to advocate for Fort Gordon and protect the community’s interest during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. After successfully completing its mission, the Alliance was able to identify new initiatives to further Fort Gordon’s positive impact on the community.

In 2016, after evaluating the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape, the Alliance evolved its mission to promote, coordinate and serve as an advocate for the Fort Gordon Cyber District, to stimulate investment in cyber growth and to capitalize on opportunities for the benefit of all. The Alliance serves as the lead organization in the establishment of the Fort Gordon Cyber District as the nationally recognized destination for cyber work, life and play by 2020.

In 2017, the Alliance implemented a multifaceted approach to ensure a successful implementation of its vision. The Alliance sought out to brand the CSRA region to attract nationwide attention. Leveraging many of the regional assets within the CSRA, and the announcement of the U.S. Army Cyber Command relocation to the region, the Fort Gordon Cyber District was created and officially announced at the Augusta TechNet conference in August 2017.

The Alliance’s plan capitalizes on cyber attributes currently residing in the region, as well as those being relocated. The approach directs efforts in diverse avenues:

  • marketing the region for its work-live-learn-play qualities within the Cyber District;
  • promoting and creates a regional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem;
  • developing an experienced and talented local workforce in cyber and IT-related fields;
  • organically growing a knowledge-based workforce through educational advancement in cyber, starting in K-12 institutions, as well as coordinating with local, state, and federal assets to bring awareness to the District.

Cyber District Brand

To further support a national brand and increase local awareness, the Alliance has implemented a robust marketing and communications plan. Creating the world-class website provides a single platform to promote the various qualities the region has to offer for work-live-learn-play. In addition, the Alliance deployed social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. The Cyber District can be followed at @CyberDistrictFG on Twitter.

Building local relationships

Through the efforts by the Alliance and their advisors, the Alliance has been successful in establishing relationships with local assets and playing host to innovation and entrepreneurial events throughout the Cyber District. The Alliance for Fort Gordon and The have executed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate, promote and foster an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Alliance has played host to multiple pitch contests, including the G60 pitch contest and IdeaFame Live. To date, the Alliance has played host to more than 150 attendees and more than 45 pitch ideas by local startups with $4,000 in prize money awarded.

Workforce Committee

Understanding the actions required in the region to support the current and future needs of a cyber workforce talent pool, the Alliance has established a Workforce Committee to address the demands within the region. The Workforce Committee is actively creating and implementing multiple programs to identify the requisite training requirements and road map for our future cyber employees.

Cyber education

The Alliance provided $30,000 in start-up funds to the Alliance for Cybersecurity Education. ACE developed the cybersecurity pathway that was approved as the Georgia state standard in February 2015. Given the demand for cyber jobs in this area the intent is to “home-grow” the talent. For high school, it’s Introduction to Digital Technology (ninth grade), Introduction to Cybersecurity (10th grade), Advanced Cybersecurity 911th grade) and Cybersecurity Internships 12th grade).

The Alliance – with Fort Gordon leaders, Aiken Technical College, the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, Augusta Technical College, the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia County School System, Augusta University and the Richmond County School System – were the founders of the Georgia ACE program.

In 2016, the Alliance reinstated the ACE committee to meet the growing workforce needs associated with the establishment of Fort Gordon as the U.S. Army Cyber Command. Locally and globally, there is a shortage of cyber professionals generating the demand for more technology workers. The new ACE committee is made up of education and chamber professionals from Georgia and South Carolina from the seven surrounding counties of Fort Gordon.

In conjunction with workforce development the Alliance is promoting the advancement of cyber education throughout the region, starting with K-12 programs. Understanding the budget constraints within the education system, the Alliance has introduced low- to no-cost programs aimed at training our region’s students and educators, preparing for future technology careers. The Alliance’s approach has made an immediate impact throughout the Cyber District.

Introducing a unique educational approach and curriculum from the National Integrated Cyber Education and Research Center, the Alliance has become one of the leading organizations in delivering cyber education to our future cyber experts.

Professional development

Through its efforts, the Alliance has been able to coordinate more than 1,200 free professional development hours to more than 200 educators in the Cyber District. In addition to professional development, NICERC and the Alliance have provided more than $5,000 in materials to foster programs within the District. These materials include Arduino robots and other materials to support hands-on projects associated with the NICERC curriculum.

Education Discovery Forum

This year, the week of June 4, the Fort Gordon Cyber District played host to NICERC’s national annual conference, the Education Discovery Forum. The Alliance partnered with NICERC to bring the 2018 EDF to Augusta!.We had more than 200 teachers attend, an EDF record. Further, we had teachers come from 22 U.S. states – another EDF record! The economic impact for the city of Augusta was estimated by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau at $114,911.27.

CyberPatriot Grant and Partnerships

Also in 2018, The Richmond County School System, in partnership with the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, received an AT&T Aspire donation written by the Alliance. These funds are being used to provide technology and support to the CyberPatriot teams at T.W. Josey High School, Lucy C. Laney High School, and the Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School. CyberPatriot is a national program designed to teach cyber techniques and skills to high-school and middle-school students supported by a $35,000 contribution from the AT&T Aspire program.

CyberPatriot Teamwork

In addition to the K-12 NICERC programs, the Alliance promoted CyberPatriot, a cybersecurity program created by the Air Force Association to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines critical to our nation’s future. In 2016, the CSRA was home to only eight teams. The past two years, through the efforts of the Alliance to generate awareness and promote this program, the Fort Gordon Cyber District is home to 78 teams in 2018, making up about 60 percent of the total CyberPatriot teams in the state of Georgia. The Cyber District is home to many first-, second- and third-place teams in Georgia and South Carolina.

Cyber coaches and mentors

As the Alliance continues to promote educational efforts throughout the region, local industry has become more involved. Firms such as Unisys have provided mentors and coaches for CyberPatriot teams, providing after hours support to ensure our students have the necessary support required to compete in state and national competitions. In addition, multiple Fort Gordon Brigades are providing superior mentorship to coaches and students through their world-class Adopt-A-School program. The Fort Gordon Adopt-A-School program was key to the progress made in the regions CyberPatriot efforts.

2018 Events

Additionally, throughout 2018, the Alliance pressed forward promoting and participating in a variety of events, presentations, ceremonies and meetings: Georgia Cyber Center Building 2 groundbreaking; Cyber Education Research Training Symposium,; North Augusta, Columbia County and Augusta Chamber of Commerce meetings; Cyberspace: Network Operations and Security Innovation Day; Columbia County Lifetime Achievement Annual Banquet; Cyber Focus Meeting with Augusta Tomorrow; Education Discovery Forum; Fort Gordon Youth Challenge Academy mentor training; TechNet Augusta; and the Cyber and Education Connections Workforce Forum, to list just a few.

The Alliance also was represented at these recurring meetings: Augusta Rotary Club; Columbia County, North Augusta and Augusta Chamber meetings; Fort Gordon AUSA breakfasts and board meetings; Road to Fort Gordon IPRs; Savannah River Site Community Resource Organization board meetings; and Fort Gordon Retiree Council meetings.

The Alliance integrated Twitter followers and a web-based weekly newsletter into extending community communications.

In August, U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held his second annual Strategic Military Advisory Group meeting along with former Secretary of the Navy William L. Ball III; Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee under then-U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn;, and leaders from the Alliance and each of Georgia’s military communities.

In Sen. Perdue’s words, “Georgia’s role in our national defense cannot be overstated.” There were discussions on “innovating to meet the needs of our 21st-century warfighters and combat global threats, as well as ways to further Georgia’s critical role in our national defense.”

Cyber Central 2018

The Alliance continues to participate in the U.s. Army Cyber Command Road to Gordon Update town hall meetings in Fort Belvoir, Va., to inform ARCYBER personnel of the benefits of living and working in the Fort Gordon Cyber District. The Alliance’s executive director also met with decision-makers to urge United Airlines to consider a direct service to and from Washington, D.C., and Augusta, making the Cyber District easily accessible for the nation’s leaders; and, through TechNet Augusta, Alliance leaders explained how cooperative efforts have affected business and will establish the Fort Gordon Cyber District and the Greater Augusta Region as a premier location for cybersecurity now and in the future.

Cyber District 2020 and beyond

The Alliance for Fort Gordon serves as the catalyst for the Fort Gordon Cyber District to become a nationally recognized cyber center of excellence. The Alliance is proud to collaborate with local, state and federal public partners as well as our private partners in the areas of economic development, academia, cybersecurity and local commerce.

Through these partnerships the Alliance promotes the Fort Gordon Cyber District brand and inspires the building of the cyber-related ecosystem focused on cyber workforce, innovation, STEM education and high-tech capabilities throughout our region and states.

At our core is a best-in-class relationship among the Alliance, Fort Gordon and our region. This is largely attributable to the fact that we are a stand-alone organization with this focus as our primary mission. Our efforts center on ensuring the success of the critical missions at Fort Gordon knowing the increased importance of this military installation to our nation’s security.

By 2020, the Fort Gordon Cyber District will be nationally recognized destination for cyber work, life and play.

The writer, a retired U.S. Army command sergeant major, is executive director of the Alliance for Fort Gordon.

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