The establishment of the U.S. Army’s new Cyber Command headquarters at Fort Gordon and other related developments have created a “huge opportunity” for the entire Palmetto State, University of South Carolina President Robert Caslen told the Rotary Club of Aiken on Monday.
And that might include a big role for USC Aiken.
During the coming months and years, Caslen said during a speech at Newberry Hall, it will be important for the flagship Columbia campus and USC Aiken to become involved in partnerships with various cybersecurity entities that will strengthen both schools.
One he mentioned specifically as a possibility involves a collaboration between USC Aiken and the South Carolina National Guard.
Caslen didn’t provide details in his talk, but according to a document obtained by the Aiken Standard, there are plans to construct a facility on USC Aiken’s campus called the National Guard Readiness Center and Cyber DreamPort.
That facility would create “an ecosystem for the cyber industry to work collaboratively with the National Guard to address pressing cybersecurity issues," the document states.
“Currently, the partnership is in the proposal stage as a budget request from the (South Carolina) Office of the Adjutant General,” said Capt. Jessica Donnelly, director of public affairs for the South Carolina National Guard.
In addition to confirming the collaboration between the National Guard and USC Aiken, Donnelly said the Savannah River National Laboratory, or SRNL, also is a partner in the project.
USC Aiken is the proposed location for the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative for SRNL.
Donnelly declined to discuss the specific plans for the National Guard Readiness Center and Cyber DreamPort.
“The university is always exploring new partnerships that benefit our students, local industry and the region,” wrote Leslie Hull-Ryde, USC Aiken director of news and information, in an email to the Aiken Standard late Monday afternoon.
USC Aiken’s chancellor, Dr. Sandra Jordan, was unavailable for comment.
Jeff Stensland, director of public relations and interim chief communications officer for the University of South Carolina, wrote the following in an email to the Aiken Standard on Monday afternoon: “I did not attend the event (Rotary Club meeting) today, but I am aware of several military partnerships currently being explored. While it’s premature to go into detail, President Caslen is interested in pairing our academic and research strengths with the needs of the military, particularly in the areas of cybersecurity, AI (artificial intelligence) and data, energy and engineering."
According to the document obtained by the Aiken Standard about the National Guard Readiness Center and Cyber DreamPort, the facility would be “state-of-the-art” and include “non-classified areas, eliminating potential red tape that gets in the way of partnerships across sectors working to develop cyber solutions.”
In addition, the facility would “work on specific challenges where National Guard cyber warriors are seeking to reach out ‘at the speed of technology’ with academe, the Savannah River National Lab, Fort Gordon Cyber Command and private industry,” the document states. “In summary, the National Guard DreamPort Collaborative will increase the state of South Carolina’s ability to provide a venue for robust collaboration, problem solving and innovation with the results of increasing cyber security capacities of the region, including training, workforce development and finding solutions to complex cyber challenges for state, business, industry and government.”
During his speech to the Rotary Club, Caslen also talked about the possibility of establishing a "cyber institute" in South Carolina similar to the Georgia Cyber Center in Augusta that trains cybersecurity professionals.
It could be located in Columbia or "someplace else," Caslen said.