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Fairmont one of four primary sites for massive NOAA, DOC cybersecurity operations center


The Fairmont News

FAIRMONT, W.Va.  — The I-79 Technology Park is listed as one of four sites for a major National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of Commerce (DOC) cybersecurity initiative, according to a NOAA draft request for proposal.

The Robert H. Mollohan Research Facility is home to several NOAA projects including its Security Operations Center located on the third floor.
(File photp)

“NOAA had an industry day event in early November which brought more than 100 large and small government contractors who have cybersecurity expertise here (Fairmont),” High Tech Foundation President and CEO James Estep said. “This contract is going to be so big and so complicated that only the larger companies will have a shot at it.”

The project, titled “NOAA Cyber Security Center (NCSC) and DOC Enterprise Security Operations Center (ESOC) Integrated Support Services,” would be “a comprehensive solution to NOAA’s and DOC’s cybersecurity mission,” according to Estep.

“West Virginia will be the home base for one of the nation’s most substantial cyber- security operations,” he said.

Along with the Fairmont location, the project would take place at Silver Spring, Maryland; Boulder, Colorado; and Washington, D.C.

The new initiative would build upon the existing NOAA Security Operations Center (NSOC) inside the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center at the I-79 Technology Park.

The NSOC is managed by Virginia-based Sevatec Inc., which was awarded a contract by NOAA in 2014.

Estep estimated the NSOC operations at $10 million per year, which includes approximately 75 people working around the clock, seven days a week.

“But I’ve been told this new effort could be as much as 10-times larger,” he added.

The scope of the effort, however, is not completely defined. NOAA would not comment on the project because the RFP is, what a spokesperson called, “acquisition sensitive.” According to Cyber Solutions Architect Christian Jorgensen of the IT services firm CSRA, the procurement would ensure that the NOAA Cyber Security Center continues to evolve and have the latest generation of security capabilities to protect against emerging cyber threats.

“This vehicle presents an exciting opportunity for the NCSC to provide a platform to increase security capabilities, collaborate, and protect multiple bureaus within the Department of Commerce leveraging NOAA’s proven capabilities,” Jorgensen said. “CSRA sees this as an important trend within the Federal space, to consolidate cyber security technologies, talent, and information to protect multiple agencies against well-funded nation state actors.”

Jorgensen added that the consolidation of cyber security services is a much more efficient and inexpensive way for the government to identify new trends and techniques utilized by malicious actors.

“In essence, this consolidation allows greater economies for scarce cyber resources therefore reducing overall costs, while amplifying the value and ensuring the best security capabilities are in place to protect the Department of Commerce bureau’s important missions,” he said.

Arguably, the new NOAA and DOC initiative in Fairmont would be the largest cybersecurity activity in the state. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. has been touting the critical need for a robust cybersecurity effort going back to August 2016 when he hosted a cyber security forum in Fairmont.

“America’s cybersecurity needs will only grow in the coming years, and this is a prime opportunity to put West Virginia on the map,” Mckinley said. “If this cybersecurity center comes to fruition it would be the first step in positioning West Virginia for more investment and jobs. This expansion by both NOAA and the Department of Commerce would show the growing influence West Virginia is playing in the information technology sector. We have a highly trained workforce, due in large part to the excellence of our universities, and the existing federal presence has created an ecosystem that is spurring economic growth in the area.”

Both Senator’s Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. have both offered support for the latest announcement.

“Senator Capito is aware of this project,” Capito spokesperson Ashley Berrang said. “She has been a strong advocate for the work being done in Fairmont, and has had several conversations with current and past Department of Commerce and NOAA officials about expanding the NOAA footprint in West Virginia.”

“Our close proximity to our nation’s capital and our exceptional workforce uniquely position West Virginia for missions like this and I’m excited to see this project come to Fairmont and West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said.

NOAA and the DOC have not provided a specific date of when the NSCS and ESOC project will begin, but according to a Nov. 7, presentation, the contract could be awarded in May 2018.

NCWV Media Business Editor John Dahlia can be reached at 304-276-1801 or by email at [email protected].

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