I’ve been putting off writing this one for a few weeks, because I want to believe the best but have some nagging doubts. I hope I’m wrong.
With Senator David Vitter’s announcement Friday that he had secured $1,000,000 in government funding for CIC, the time has come to look at the pros and cons.
They didn't wink, they blinked
When the idea was first pitched, CIC was to be the civilian support component of the Air Force Cyber Command. We were told that Cyber Command would bring up to 10,000 new jobs to the area. When the location of Cyber Command became uncertain, we were still assured. Mayor Lo Walker said it was a ‘done deal’. CIC Director Craig Spohn said that "he's seen winks and nods from Air Force bigwigs."
He also said"Cyberspace is where the next big threat to industry, individuals and national security is."
"Artillery and nuclear missiles will not be the weapons of the future.”
The Bossier Parish Police Jury was just as optimistic and hired a high powered Washington lobbying firm to secure Barksdale as headquarters – at a cost of $15,000 per month.
That didn’t work out too well. The Air Force decided not to create a new command after all, and incorporated the cyber operations into a command at Lackland AFB in Texas.
Global Strike Command, however, did stand up at Barksdale recently. It is concerned with those missles that ‘will not be the weapons of the future’.
CIC says that they are adjusting to support the current mission.
Cash Cow or White Elephant?
According to Spohn, when CIC opens in a couple of months a full complement of industries will be on the ground to support its mission, both for the private sector as well as the military. “I’m in discussions with corporations like Microsoft, Dell and Cisco that have expressed willingness and interest in setting up labs and doing manufacturing here,” Spohn says. “So in addition to the knowledge-based workers we’ll have in terms of research, we’ll have people in the manufacturing community who build things like virus protection and intrusion protection software, hardware components that live on a network and monitor its activities. We’re going to have a broad range of activity here, and it’s some pretty sexy science.”
Spohn said at one point that he even has plans to build an additional 380,000 square feet of offices to house educational, research and manufacturing operations near the base.
When asked about specifics, however, Spohn cites ‘secrecy’. Since Spohn has assured us that the current building will be filled to overflow and that it will be necessary to build another, then we will assume that the Center can pay it’s own way as it goes.
I hope Mr. Spohn realizes that the identity of the companies locating there cannot be kept secret. Better to tell us now, without getting into specifics, who the companies are and what sort of revenue they will generate for CIC in the near and distant future.
The City of Bossier City, the Bossier Parish Police Jury, a couple of million dollars of taxpayer money and ‘secrecy’ just cause some uneasiness in certain quarters.
For more local views on CIC, read Professor Jeff Sadow’s comments in his blog post Government must cut cyber venture capital losses now and Marty Carlson’s column in the Press-Tribune Contrary to some popular misconceptions, the Cyber Innovation Center is not a one-trick-Pony.
Marty, I hope you’re right!