JULY 26, 2021 — Top government leaders from the U.S. Cyber Command’s Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN) were the latest guests at the National Security Collaboration Center (NSCC), located at UTSA. The JFQH-DODIN is looking to the university as a model to guide it in developing collaborations similar to the NSCC with partners at its home base to further protect the nation from global security challenges.
The NSCC has already become a model for government, industry and academia on how to create an innovation ecosystem.
“Our main effort here is to come and learn,” said Dell Foster, executive director of JFHQ-DODIN. “UTSA has cracked the code on collaboration and we want to glean and ask the right questions so we can set ourselves up for success.”
NSCC visitors to the Collaboration Day event witnessed a hardware demonstration by the Sandia National Laboratories and virtual reality demonstrations by the 16th Air Force, Air Force Command and Leidos. Meanwhile, Michael J. “Apollo” Lovell, executive director at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), gave an update on its 5G initiatives in telehealth and telemedicine, and stressed how the NSCC helped create an opportunity for JBSA to conduct more research.
Accompanying the JFHQ-DODIN were members of Marshall University, the University of West Virginia and the West Virginia National Guard—proposed partners for JFHQ-DODIN’s future collaboration center.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy delivered the welcoming remarks to the guests, including Michael Good, interim president of the University of Utah, who along with Idaho National Laboratory is in discussions to form a similar partnership. Eighmy pointed out the significance for the NSCC to quickly achieve a leadership position in just three years which now allows other academic institutions to emulate.
“As a president of a university, it’s really exciting when presidents from other universities visit,” Eighmy said. “We want to do anything we can do to help. The fact that the State of West Virginia sent two universities and the West Virginia National Guard to visit us, it says a lot about what we do and how we share our ideas.”
Ret. Brigadier General Guy Walsh, executive director of the NSCC, urged the guests to view its Collaboration Day as “an opportunity to ask the tough questions on how we stood up and run the NSCC.”
The JFHQ-DODIN’s mission is to secure, operate and defend information networks to synchronize the protection of DOD component capabilities and to enable power projection and freedom of action across all warfighting domains. Established in 2015, the JFHQ-DODIN is one of the newest organizations under USCYBERCOM, which leads and coordinates 45 organizations.
During the visit, Bill Walker, senior policy advisor at the JFHQ-DODIN, presented the capabilities of its latest organization, designed to protect the entity’s network. He also shared his perspective on the disconnect that has occurred within the IT and cybersecurity industries.
“We believe it’s in large part due to the way we have raised our IT and cyber people in this country over the past 30 years,” Walker said. “When we first started, the chief information officer model was about efficiency. It wasn’t about effectiveness, defense or security—none of that was considered. What we have found since is that every product has to be secured because everything is going to fail eventually.”
With a central theme of innovation, the NSCC hosts several UTSA research centers and institutes, including the Cyber Center for Security and Analytics and the MATRIX AI Consortium for Human Well-Being. The center also supports on-campus laboratories, such as the San Antonio Virtual Environments (SAVE) laboratory, the Internet of Things (IoT) laboratory, and the Control Systems/SCADA laboratory.
Currently operating on the UTSA Main Campus, the NSCC is comprised of more than 60 partners, including the 16th Air Force and multiple components of the Air Force and Army. Under the leadership of Walsh, the NSCC provides a unique environment where government, industry and academic partners collaborate in world-class facilities, develop solutions for current and future national security issues and provide cutting-edge academic experiences for students and researchers—all while developing talent for today’s workforce.
“We are guided by common interest and mutual benefit,” Walker said. “It’s not only to benefit a narrow niche. We want the maximum benefit for everyone.”
Outside of Washington, D.C., San Antonio is the largest global cyber-security hub in the United States. In summer 2022, the NSCC, part of the larger UTSA Knowledge Enterprise, will be co-located within the UTSA School of Data Science, a new world-class research and education center that is scheduled to open on the UTSA Downtown Campus, in the heart of downtown San Antonio’s high-tech corridor.
UTSA is the nation’s only Hispanic Serving Institution with three Center of Excellence designations from the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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