With the future of Cyber Command under review, and in an effort to find out where we stand, some local officials took a trip to Washington recently in an effort to find out if this thing is salvagable.
"We decided to come up here after last week, come on up and talk to some people," said Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus, who was joined Monday by Bossier Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson and Bossier City Councilmen David Jones and David Montgomery.
Bossier officials declined to offer many details except to say they met with staffers of federal officials from Louisiana, such as those from the offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu and Congressman Rodney Alexander, as well as nearly two dozen private companies, according to Jackson.
Altimus and Jackson declined to name the companies but Jackson said the meetings were "very productive" and the nature of the discussions revolved around discussions of "incentives" for those companies. Jackson declined to say what kind of incentives and for what they would be used.
It was unclear whether Jackson was referring to companies expected to fill the under-construction Cyber Innovation Center/National Cyber Research Park, which local leaders hoped to use to entice the Air Force to make Cyber Command permanently at Barksdale Air Force Base."
10,000 New Jobs
Among those officials were the very ones who assured us that this was a 'done deal' and that we could expect up to 10,000 new civilian jobs once Cyber Command was in operation. More than $100,000,000 was allocated by state and local governments for the Cyber Innovation Center, and construction has already begun.
Let's be realistic. We were warned from the beginning not to put too much confidence in the Air Forces' planning.
Washington defense analyst John Pike, founder of GlobalSecurity.Org, suggested caution since not all military information warfare initiatives have blossomed on the civilian side.
And Pike said not all high-tech government enterprises spawn economic growth.
"Every time the Air Force has started thinking about itself as being an information operations service, as opposed to a 'hot steel on target' service, after a little while, they get down that road and they say 'You know, information operations just really doesn't have that much in common with air power.' It has a different set of tools, a different set of principles, a different set of skills."
Our leaders didn't listen and weren't cautious, and now, down the road, the Air Force is pulling out. Even if they do keep some sort of command, there is no certainty at all that it will be headquartered at Barksdale AFB, as 16 other bases have been under consideration for the command.
Incredibly, these politicians still have the rosy view that everything is just 'business as usual' and that this will all work out just fine.
It won't. There will not be 10,000 civilian contractor jobs. There probably won't be an Air Force Cyber Command at all, at least not in the form that was originally foreseen.
The $100,000,000 Cyber Research Park is fast becoming a boondoggle. It is time for our leaders to open their eyes, open their minds, and make some intelligent (for a change) decisions.
The Answer lies under our feet
One thing that is spurring the local economy in a huge way is the advent of drilling in the Haynesville Shale. The Haynesville Shale stretches across parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas and holds an estimated 29 to 39 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, though the range of the formation is not fully known. This gas field will be one of the largest in the country, and is coming at a time when everyone is looking for cheaper sources of energy.
With the announcement of The Pickens Plan to use natural gas in ways that we haven't before, the potential is even greater.
In addition, Chesapeake Energy, the nation's largest natural gas producer and most active driller, announced that it has initiated a public education campaign called CNG NOW designed to promote the greater usage of America's clean-burning natural gas as a transportation fuel.
CNG NOW is an initiative that sets forth a clear plan to rescue America from decades of dangerous reliance on imported foreign oil and complements the transportation portion of the Pickens Plan announced by T. Boone Pickens earlier this summer.
Let's summarize: A Solution
- We are building a research park and construction has begun on the flagship building.
- Air Force Cyber Command is not going to happen.
- The 10,000 jobs are not going to happen.
- Unprecendented gas production is happening in the Haynesville Shale.
- T. Boone Pickens has announced that he is funding a program to get natural gas into cars.
- Shreveport has a GM plant that is laying people off.
The solution, of course, is to get the governor and a couple of mayors on a plane to Detroit. Meet with GM and see what it would take to get them on board with producing some new cars that run on natural gas (at the Shreveport plant of course).
Call Mr. Pickens and tell him you have a $100,000,000 research center you would like for him to use.
The virtual reality of Cyber Command was a nice dream. Let's leave the virtual behind and embrace the present reality - the potential that is the Haynesville Shale.