Establishing a state-of-the-art cyber complex at USC Aiken alongside the already in-motion Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a U.S. Department of Energy venture, will create a much needed economic and workforce engine for the Palmetto State, according to testimony from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty.

McCarty, South Carolina’s adjutant general, on Tuesday told a state budget panel and other lawmakers having the DreamPort Cybersecurity Collaborative facility at USCA “allows us to do things that we would not be able to do if we were off-site.”

“We see this partnership as being critical,” McCarty said, continuing, “This is a great opportunity not just for the Aiken area, but for the state of South Carolina.”

The major general’s remarks – at times underscoring the need for well-trained, technology-proficient workers and soldiers – were made in Columbia and come as the state’s next budget begins taking shape. At least four Aiken County Legislative Delegation members attended the hearing.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, the adjutant general for South Carolina (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson).

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive budget, introduced last month, included $15 million for the DreamPort project. Another $15 million was made federally available.

The DreamPort complex is meant to combat growing cybersecurity threats as well as provide a home for futuristic research, education and partnerships – in both open and closed settings and for both the military and business sectors.

“Without going into a lot, and certainly not going into classified,” McCarty said, according to audio reviewed by the Aiken Standard, “cyber is a significant threat to this state, to this nation, and it is a growing challenge to us each and every day, not only from a military perspective.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, federally funded at $25 million, is a similar facility slated for the USCA campus. The AMC, though, is more focused on nuclear matters than cybersecurity.

“So we will create a hub there that can be used to grow economic strength, develop a workforce, and be used as a blueprint for where we can move this type of model to other places in the state, where we believe it will be successful, also,” the major general said.

The S.C. National Guard is home to one of five cyber-protection battalions.

Early development of the DreamPort Cybersecurity Collaborative – design as well as environmental and real-estate considerations – is expected to begin later this year, according to a Wednesday announcement from the state National Guard.

Construction could start in 2022.

Having the DreamPort complex at USC Aiken means the “power of proximity,” McCarty argued, borrowing a phrase he attributed to USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan.

The university campus is about 40 minutes east of Fort Gordon, the Army’s cyber center of excellence in Augusta. And it’s 30 minutes north of the Savannah River Site, the sprawling nuclear cleanup and weapons reserve near New Ellenton. A think tank in 2018 described SRS as “poised to emerge as a major national cybersecurity hub.”

State Rep. Bill Taylor, an Aiken Republican, on Thursday said the developments – the DreamPort and Advanced Manufacturing collaboratives – at USCA were “enormously important” to the region.

“This,” he said, “is huge.”

McMaster in a Wednesday statement said the Palmetto State must be proactive in terms of cyber. The DreamPort complex “will make South Carolina a leader in cybersecurity,” he said further.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin

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