SPRINGFIELD – Congressman Richard Neal announced a $3 million federal earmark that will help establish a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (CCE) inside Union Station. The allocation was made possible through Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) from the Department of Education.
The project previously received a state grant of $1.46 million in October 2022.
Both funding sources will be utilized to establish the CCE, which will be developed and operated in collaboration with the MassCyberCenter. Along with increasing cybersecurity efforts, the CCE will provide hands-on training and professional opportunities for local college students to develop skills in the cybersecurity sector.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also provided $500,000 to the developing CCE.
Once established, the CCE will operate as a regional entity. The CCE will hire four full-time employees and include around 15 to 20 students in training roles.
Neal made the announcement inside Union Station. Sarno, STCC President John Cook and Springfield Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Amanda Pham gave remarks on the funding announcement, while American International College President Hubert Benitez, Bay Path University President Sandra Doran and Elms College President Harry Dumay attended in support of the project.
Neal highlighted how cybersecurity has become paramount in todays society. He said cybersecurity measures are deeply embedded in his day-to-day role as a congressman.
“We talk about it all the time in Washington. You can’t go to a gathering of the national defense agencies [or] the intelligence gathering agencies where cybersecurity doesn’t come up … Even as members of congress going to the briefing, they check your phone and put the [security] wand on you,” said Neal.
Neal focused on the educational benefits of the CCE. The congressman envisions the project developing a beneficial “ecosystem” for educational institutions and the community alike.
“This is not only going to be an important use of space, but anytime you have colleges and universities of this reputation, it makes a huge difference … It builds its own ecosystem and its own community,” said Neal.
Neal also reflected on the positive impact the CCE will have for future generations.
“I think this is a worthwhile investment that generations are going to enjoy the benefits of what we’ve done,” said Neal.
Cooke said he originally proposed the CCE to Neal a few years ago. He shared that the project received more funding support than anticipated.
“It’s not often you ask for a certain amount that you often receive more than that,” said Cooke.
Additionally, Cooke highlighted the holistic impact the CCE will have on educational entities and various other sectors.
“The combination now of local, state and federal funds brings a sustainability to the effort of providing cyber learning to area higher education, while the security operation center will serve to strengthen municipal governments, nonprofits and businesses in their efforts to harden cyber protections,” said Cooke.
Sarno also celebrated the CCE’s opportunities to provide education, additional jobs and enhanced cybersecurity throughout Western Massachusetts.
“This also brings training in working with our local higher educational institutions here, and also an opportunity for a good four letter word – jobs,” said Sarno.
Sarno expressed his gratitude to Neal for securing funding for the local project.
“Once a mayor, always the heart of a mayor, [Neal] never forgets his home city here in Springfield,” said Sarno.
Pham spoke on how the CCE will be a critical addition to Springfield.
“This center will strengthen cybersecurity resilience in Western Massachusetts while empowering our workforce to meet the needs of this evolving industry. Western Massachusetts is home to many higher education institutions, and we are encouraged by the collaborative partnerships being made – all to better the lives of our students and community at large,” said Pham.
The development of a CCE is among the 15 CDS projects that Neal has secured monetary resources for. The 15 projects total over $20 million in funding.