BEAUFORT, S.C. (Oct. 20, 2020) – Beaufort’s South Coast Cyber Center is making progress on a number of fronts, according to Chairman and Executive Director Col. Warren Parker, USMC (Retired).
Launched earlier this year as a 501 (c) (3), the South Coast Cyber Center aims to make this region a hub for cybersecurity education, business, and research. Why cybersecurity and Beaufort? Cybersecurity jobs are in great demand, according to research done by the group, and pay $70,000 and up at the entry level. Last year, there was a shortage of over 300,000 jobs in the United States. That demand, coupled with the advantages of Beaufort’s quality of life; large active duty and veteran population; the active support of the business community; and the presence of the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) and the Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL) make Beaufort a prime location as a cybersecurity hub.
The South Coast Cyber Center is a collaborative undertaking of local government, USCB, TCL, the Beaufort Digital Corridor, Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation with strong support from the Chamber of Commerce and the business community.
“We need to build a skilled workforce,” Parker said. Under this ambitious plan, TCL and USCB would offer two- and four-year degrees in cybersecurity and cyber defense, while the Beaufort Digital Corridor will incubate and mentor cyber startups.
The group’s goal is that by 2024, USCB and TCL will have achieved Center of Academic Excellence designations from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency, Parker said. The plan is to attract local students, active duty military and veterans, and students from around the country with these coveted degrees.
“This is an intensive process for both schools and both are well underway to establish themselves as Centers of Academic Excellence,” he said. Both schools will start offering cybersecurity classes in the fall of 2021, he noted. USCB has hired Dr. Dean Bushey as an Associate Professor of computational science, and he will head the university’s cybersecurity program.
The group has also begun a grant application to the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, which works with communities that have a significant military presence on economic development opportunities, particularly those focused on cybersecurity, Parker said.
In addition, the group just established its website, www.southcoastcyber.com.
The South Coast Cyber Center, in collaboration with the City of Beaufort, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the South Carolina Army National Guard 125th Cyber Protection Battalion, is in the preliminary stages of planning for a cybersecurity exercise early next year that would bring together first responders and others to test various "what if" scenarios, Parker noted.
The group has met with its congressional and state legislative delegations, and has won support from both, Parker said. Gov. Henry McMaster also expressed his strong support in a meeting held in February in Columbia.
In the meantime, the South Coast Cyber Center leadership continues to reach out to and collaborate with the Georgia Cyber Center in Augusta, the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia, Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, and the Naval Information Systems Command Atlantic in Charleston, in addition to cybersecurity programs at The Citadel, the University of West Florida and other academic institutions around the country through membership in the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).
Parker said the Georgia Cyber Center provides an excellent model for what he hopes that Beaufort will achieve: USCB and TCL's cybersecurity academic programs sharing a campus with cyber business, cyber startups, and other government agencies focused on cybersecurity to leverage the synergy of collaboration and working together. ######