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Old 05-16-09, 08:52 AM
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Command may be in S.A. by end of the year

WASHINGTON — Air Force officials said Friday they would begin an environmental impact study immediately and hope to have a newly created cyber command up and running at Lackland AFB by the end of the year.

San Antonio leaders say moving the headquarters of the command and 400 new positions to Lackland for an around-the-clock operation would mean an annual economic impact of $30 million annually in salaries alone.

“Those are good, solid, good-paying jobs that last through economic times, good and bad,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

Wolff said that for every public-sector job landed in San Antonio, another two are created in the private sector.

“It's a safe balance,” Wolff said. “It buffers us from recession.”

Wolff joined Mayor Phil Hardberger, U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, and U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, at news conference lauding the decision to bring the cyber command to South Texas.

“This was not a Democrat or a Republican issue,” Hardberger noted, praising the efforts of Texas' congressional delegation — specifically Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — to secure the command. “This was very much a bipartisan effort, and San Antonio will be the beneficiary of hundreds of good-paying jobs, paying an average of $70,000 a year.”

Gov. Rick Perry was equally enthusiastic: “It is fitting that the town that hosts the cradle of modern military medicine would now welcome a command with such a vital role to play in the future of national defense.”

Bob Murdock, director of military affairs for the city, said the positions created likely would be high-paid jobs.

The annual economic impact of salaries could be as much as $30 million a year, said Steve Niven, director and chief economist with the Strategic Alliance for Business and Economic Research, a think tank in partnership with St. Mary's University and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Wolff said additional jobs would be created in the private sector to support new missions at the cyber command. Locating the command at Lackland also would enhance local efforts to attract more NSA missions, he said.

Lackland was selected over five other finalists: Barksdale AFB, La; Langley AFB, Va.; Offutt AFB, Neb.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; and Scott AFB, Ill.

The environmental impact assessment must be successfully completed before a final decision is made and should be concluded by summer, said Carla Pampe, a spokeswoman with the command at Barksdale in Louisiana.

The new command will oversee operations involving about 4,000 personnel at a dozen Air Force installations across the country who work to stave off cyber attacks on military installations and systems.

The 24th Air Force is tentatively scheduled to move from Barksdale to San Antonio sometime in November or December, said Gary Strasburg, an Air Force spokesman in the Pentagon.

Under the direction of the Air Force's Space Command at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colo., the cyber command is responsible for protecting Air Force computer systems and networks used to fly remotely piloted aircraft and navigate satellites.

“It is supposed to defend our computers and attack the enemy's computers, in the simplest terms,” said John Pike, director and founder of globalsecurity.org, a military information Web site. “It develops and distributes code, key access stuff for our computers. It would go after the other guys' computers both to steal stuff and to disable them.”

The cyber command will come to one of the country's biggest Air Force bases.

Lackland's basic and technical training student population, now at 79,000 people a year, is larger than the undergraduate student population of the University of Texas and Texas A&M combined.

“The men and women of Lackland AFB have been a part of this community for a long time,” base spokesman Kirk Frady said. “Although a final decision on the basing has to await environmental analysis, we know this would be a great home for the 24th Air Force. We plan to partner with Air Force Space Command and the local community to help transition this important mission to the base.”

Command may be in S.A. by end of the year
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