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Fort Meade and Fort Gordon connect to advance cyber excellence

As part of a mutual effort to support U.S. cyber missions, representatives of the Fort Meade Alliance recently joined an Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation trip to Georgia to tour Fort Gordon and cyber training facilities in Augusta and Atlanta.

“We are shamelessly stealing great ideas from each other to make our military communities better,” said Tom Clark, Executive Director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon. “We absolutely love the Fort Meade Alliance team and look forward to growing our relationship.”

Michael Shaffer, Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Economic Development with Augusta University briefs the delegation on the creation of the Georgia Cyber Center

The interaction between the FMA and the Alliance for Fort Gordon began after the Army announced plans to locate its Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon. The initiative is expected to add 4,700 high-tech and other military personnel to the garrison by 2020. The collaboration – which has already included a visit to Fort Meade by business leaders, educators and government officials from the Fort Gordon region – is helping both regions refine their approaches to mission support, economic development and workforce training.

“I don’t think there is anything that we should be selfish or proprietary about when it comes to what we can do to in our schools to groom our workforce,” said Julie Mussog, President and CEO of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation and a member of the FMA delegation that traveled to Georgia. “The more we can do to augment each other, the better off we both will be.”

Fort Gordon representatives have been particularly impressed by the FMA’s Resiliency and Education Center project, its STEM Family Nights, Tech Mania, STEM Core and Project SCOPE. Meanwhile, FMA members were impressed by the close collaboration among Georgia’s technical colleges, universities and businesses in order to grow the cyber workforce, said Tim O’Ferrall, FMA General Manager.

Georgia’s governor committed more than $100 million to create the Georgia Cyber Center in Augusta, said Randall Toussaint, Senior Project Manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The facility supports both technical college and university classes, including IT certification programs. It includes the Georgia Cyber Range where students, industry and government agencies can safely test cyber tools and strategies; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Cyber Crime Unit that brings the academic and law enforcement communities together; and an Incubator/Accelerator that enables companies to innovate, grow and hire center students as interns.

“When you put all those different features in one building, you begin to learn the power of collaboration,” Toussaint said. The center is fostering increased trust among academic, industry and government players, which is essential for innovation in cyber “and to quote Warren Buffet, ‘Business moves at the speed of trust.’”

Collaboration between the two regions is also opening up business opportunities for Fort Meade contractors.

“We see some interesting things percolating,” Mussog said. “We anticipate that a number of our companies will want to have a toehold at Fort Gordon and pursue some of the business that comes out of there.”

Representatives of the two regions, Mussog added, are also looking at supporting each other’s efforts to address ongoing challenges with security clearances. “It’s important that security clearance issues are raised with people who can make a difference. We have an opportunity to deliver this message from two parts of the country.”