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Department of Defense opens cyber security center at Scott Air Force Base

The  $100 million complex has about 1,000 employees responsible for keeping the U.S. Department of Defense's computer network safe.
Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio
The $100 million complex has about 1,000 employees responsible for keeping the U.S. Department of Defense's computer network safe.

There's a new, $100 million dollar building at Scott Air Force Base that is keeping the U.S. Department of Defense's computer network out of trouble.

Military and political dignitaries gathered on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the 164,000- square-foot complex that houses the Defense Information Systems Agency's Global Operations Command. It’s the largest cyber operations center in the United States.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the work of the facility’s 1,000 employees is critical.

"There are people who are trying to break down our internet systems, to invade them, to hack them, to steal our secrets and to find ways to compromise the security of this nation," he said. "The men and women working here are fighting them every minute of every day, and I don’t exaggerate."

Durbin described the work at the Defense Information Systems Agency not as building a wall, but as creating a swinging door that allows the right people in and keeps the wrong people out.

Credit (Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)
The new facility's network operations center is called Orion, a reference to the huntsman of Greek mythology. The employees at DISA comb through about 800 million emails DOD receives each month.

Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn is the agency's director He said the agency is responsible for making sure the Department of Defense’s computer network is safe. He said the DOD receives about 800 million emails every 30 days.

"Of the 800 million emails, only 100 million are good, the rest are all malicious," Lynn said. "This team ferrets this out, combs this out and makes sure only the good emails come through the network."

The facility’s 1,000 employees are mostly civilian. Col. Paul Craft oversees DISA’s Global Operations Command at Scott Air Force Base. He said of their personnel, about 50 are military, 250 government civilian employees and more than 650 contract employees.

Craft said employees began working in the new complex last week. Before that he said they were scattered among several buildings on and off the base.

"Now we have them all in one, integrated facility, so we can process through problems and problem solutions, and then actually put those solutions in place in a much quicker fashion," he said.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was also on hand for the ceremony. He said the facility was not only a boon for the defense of the U.S. against cyber attacks, but also would help Illinois’ economy.

"This will create more jobs in the state of Illinois and help drive innovation and technology here in Illinois and across the nation," he said.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.