WASHINGTON — Lackland AFB in San Antonio is being selected by Air Force officials as the headquarters for a new cyber command, an official close to the selection process said late Thursday.
The Air Force is expected to make the selection official today, but lawmakers representing states and cities with potential sites were being notified in advance of the announcement.
Lackland was selected by the Air Force as the best of several other candidates for the headquarters, which would mean an influx of infrastructure, security and 400 staffers.
The headquarters will include the commander's staff and an operations center.
The operations primarily will focus on defending Air Force computers against cyber attack and preventing computer disruptions.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said selecting Lackland was “great news for San Antonio.”
Hutchison said Lackland “and its dedicated military personnel have the unique and varied attributes that made it the obvious choice.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he was surprised to hear Lackland was selected, because a Louisiana site was considered the front-runner.
“This is a good surprise,” Wolff said, adding that it comes on the heels of last week's announcement that Medtronic Diabetes Therapy Management and Education Center is moving to San Antonio and will hire 1,400 workers over five years.
The selected site for the cyber command now must undergo an environmental impact assessment.
A final announcement of where to place the command will come later this summer, after the assessment is conducted, said Carla Pampe, a spokeswoman for the command in Louisiana.
Alternative sites also will be announced, should the finalist site be eliminated by the environmental impact assessment.
The temporary location of the command is at Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, La. The Louisiana base was one of six finalists.
Other potential sites were Langley AFB, Va.; Offut AFB, Neb.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; and Scott AFB, Ill.
Hutchison and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, led efforts to sway Air Force officials to locate the command at Lackland, where existing missions are located.
When Lackland was named a finalist in January, Gonzalez said the Air Force base was “well-positioned” to get the command because of existing work there.
Lackland is home to the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, the Cryptologic Systems Group, the 67th Network Warfare Wing, the Information Operation Center and the Join Operation Warfare Command.
In addition, the University of Texas at San Antonio has cyber-related research, and the National Security Agency's Texas Cryptologic Center is in San Antonio.
Wolff said landing the command at Lackland also would boost local efforts to get “more jobs here with NSA.”
“This is a positive step toward that effort,” Wolff said.
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez agreed, saying, “The Air Force cyber center is a major component of security, but it also will have some other components for the private sector, which will trigger other forms of jobs.”
Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, said the command would be a “a good incubator” for business.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and the entire Texas congressional delegation signed onto a letter urging the Air Force to put the command in San Antonio.
And Hutchison, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and military affairs, touted San Antonio as the location for the center in a March meeting with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.
In the selection process, the Air Force considered factors that included existing cyber activities, network capabilities, infrastructure and security.
San Antonio demonstrated it had the networks and infrastructure to become a national center for cyber security, Hutchison said.
Hutchison said she would work with Congress, the Air Force and San Antonio leaders to “ensure a smooth and efficient transition process so we can stand up this critical new command as quickly as possible.”
San Antonio to get Air Force cyber command
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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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