N.H. group backs regional cyber defense center

New Hampshire’s technology leaders and others from around New England are working together to bring a proposed Air Force Cyber Command center to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass., along with more than 500 jobs.

Last September, the U.S. Air Force established a temporary cyber defense center at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to combat what they say are increased threats against computer networks at the Pentagon and other military bases.

Currently, the provisional unit is composed of military personnel telecommuting to the center from their home bases.

The Air Force is evaluating bases in 18 states, including Hanscom, for a permanent command center.

Letters from the governors pitching their states as ideal base locations are due July 1, with Air Force representatives making site visits during the summer. A short list of four candidates will be announced by the end of the year. A final location decision is expected by September 2009.

As many as 541 jobs could be brought to the area if Hanscom is chosen, proponents say.

The New Hampshire High Technology Council is one of those proponents.

The council, said Fred Kocher, president of NHHTC, “would welcome the center as another indication that New England is the premier technology sector in the country,” said. “Right now, we are competing with Silicon Valley, the Triangle in the Carolinas and Austin, Texas, for that honor.”

Kocher said the center “would be a benefit” to New Hampshire “because Hanscom is located right on the border and within easy access for technology companies. A cyber command center in our backyard is a big deal. Collaborations with New England and New Hampshire businesses has great potential.”

Not only is southern New Hampshire home to much of the state’s high-tech industry, Daniel Webster College in Nashua offers the country’s first undergraduate degree in homeland security, which could provide additional opportunities, he said.

“It’s just an educated guess, but part of the mission is probably related to homeland security,” said Kocher, who is also on DWC’s board of directors. “Between the homeland security degree program and computer science curriculums, that college is in a position to collaborate, but that’s just speculation.”

Kocher said NHHTC is working jointly with the Massachusetts High Tech Council, and eventually others from the remaining New England states, to form a defense initiative later this spring that would foster a closer relationship among the Department of Defense and high-tech companies, defense contractors and bases in the region.

“This would also fit in with the center,” said Kocher. “What strengthens the whole region strengthens New Hampshire.”

For more information, visit www.afcyber.af.mil.