|Bases compete for cyber command HQ|
Competition for a new Air Force cyber command headquarters that would bring thousands of jobs and generate millions in revenue is expected to intensify this summer.
The Shreveport-Bossier area wants the cyber headquarters, but so does a community in Nebraska. Other Air Force towns might also make bids.
"As word gets out, you can be sure there will be other interest," said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport.
Megan Lucas, president of the Bellevue (Neb.) Chamber of Commerce, says local businessmen and lawmakers are trying to persuade Air Force brass that nearby Offutt Air Force Base is better suited to the job than Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Located in the heart of the Midwest, Offutt sits on 4,000 acres and is host to the 55th Wing, an Air Force combat unit. The base also has intelligence and surveillance missions. More importantly, it is U.S. Strategic Command headquarters. The command is responsible for both early warning of and defense against missile attack and long-range conventional attacks. It is also charged with protecting the U.S. from the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
That's why Lucas believes Offutt should also host the new cyber command, whose mission would be to protect the nation from attacks on its electronic and information systems. The mission also would have an offensive function with ability to attack enemy computer and communications systems.
"We're already wired for the command," Lucas said, referring to the high-tech capabilities at Offutt.
She also said the area has about 30 defense contractors who could provide support and services, and Offutt's proximity to Omaha, Neb., gives it even more resources.
"This is the smart choice for the cyber command," Lucas said.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., are lobbying Air Force officials to put the new mission's headquarters at Offutt. Lucas said the community might also hire a Washington lobbyist to ramp up the effort.
McCrery, along with Sens. David Vitter, R-Metairie and Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, are the chief advocates for Barksdale.
They met late last month with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and are optimistic about Barksdale's chances.
"He was very impressed with the support from the community," McCrery said.
Bossier City officials have earmarked $50 million to purchase 58 acres so Barksdale could grow to accommodate the command. The state of Louisiana has also pledged $50 million to support the cyber headquarters.
Barksdale has another advantage. In November, Wynne said the 8th Air Force "with its long and strategic deep strike heritage" would be in charge of the new cyber command. That means the 8th Air Forces' Lt. Gen. Robert Elder was given the job of searching all Air Force commands to find personnel for the new mission.
"There is work proceeding as we speak," McCrery said.
As the command takes shape over the summer, so will the lobbying war between the Louisiana and Nebraska communities.
"It would be a huge boon to the state of Louisiana and Northwest Louisiana, so this is definitely going to be on the front burner," McCrery said.
Landrieu called the prospects of landing the headquarters "huge" because it would create high- paying jobs on the base and attract high-tech companies to the Shreveport-Bossier area.
Vitter said he is "thrilled the Air Force is seriously considering Barksdale."
"This command center will create jobs in the region, increase Barksdale's importance as a military base, and make Northwest Louisiana a leader in military and cyberspace technology advancements," he said.
Lani Kass, director of the U.S. Air Force chief of staff's cyber task force, said most of the new command will be in place -- and the decision about its headquarters made -- by late fall.
She said the Pentagon's desire to control the electromagnetic spectrum drove the decision to establish the command.
"The first battle of any future war is going to be for command of air, space and cyberspace," Kass said.