FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (April 7, 2016) -- Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl and Maj. Gen. Lawarren Patterson recently co-chaired the sixth Cyber Installation Support Summit at U.S. Army Installation Management Command Headquarters.

Cyber and communication protocols have become integrated into nearly every thread of modern society -- commerce, communications, energy, water, and facilities -- to the point that a cyber security breach, depending upon severity, has the potential to disrupt life as we know it.

Patterson, the Deputy Commanding General for Operations and Chief of Staff for IMCOM, helped stand up the initial cyber summit in late 2014 and has been a stalwart throughout the process.

"A few years ago it became apparent that the growth of cyber within the Army and the Department of Defense was going to become a very large, complex mission, particularly from the standpoint of building out facilities to support cyber training and operations," Patterson explained. "The anticipated growth will take years in some instances because the dollars that have to be planned for and allocated will take a concerted effort and the teamwork of many organizations and agencies."

The team has more than doubled in number, and involves far more entities than just the U.S. Army.

"What started as the first summit of about 40 people representing various elements of the Army has grown and expanded to include NSA [National Security Agency], U.S. Cyber Command, sister services, and the reserve components. Today you see participation of around 100 people," Patterson said in reference to the group assembled inside the IMCOM Operations Center.

Originally, the focus was on facilities and growth primarily in three locations for which the Army is responsible: Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Meade, Maryland; and Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Some growth at West Point, New York, was also part of the original intent.

"Since then, we've expanded," Patterson said. "From day one we always wanted to be inclusive, not exclusive -- so we invited all the stakeholders to be a part of the process."

Dahl, who co-chaired his first cyber summit here, said he probably learned more than anyone as the "rookie" in the room.

"What I took away is there is a tremendous amount of talent that comes together for this event from all the various organizations that have some stake in cyber defense, cyber security, or the support of standing up that capability," Dahl said. "I'm much more comfortable with all this now than I was before. I got to interact and see the quality of the leadership, the quality of the intellect, and the seriousness with which they are approaching this complex set of challenges."

The summits have been scheduled quarterly and held at Forts Belvoir, Gordon and Meade until Headquarters IMCOM joined the rotation. This rotating approach is designed to allow participants to spend time on the ground at the location to gain first-hand appreciation of the challenges.

"We do it quarterly to make sure we're all on the same sheet of music, we all understand what's going on through transparency, cross-talk, sharing best practices and success stories. We look at facility growth and planned facility growth to determine what priorities are urgent and what can wait. We all work in concert to define the requirements for the appropriate leadership to make decisions," Patterson said.

Determining who would fund what was the universal question in the room during the morning session in San Antonio.

"That's what part of this is all about," Patterson explained. "Given the multiple stakeholders, we want to make sure there is a clear understanding of who's responsible for funding which aspect of the myriad projects. This clarification is number one. Next is determining the cost, and then the priority. If we do decide to fund something under the name of cyber, we need to fully understand what other projects will go by the wayside or fall below the cut line. Those are the kinds of discussions we're having."

Dahl pointed out that the cyber summits reach beyond the realm of the Army.

"The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve have a very important component of this," Dahl said. "Fort Meade, where we're standing up a great deal of this capability, has 53,000 people on it every day, mainly civilians. The Army runs the base, but the NSA is there with 25,000 or so. You've also got several joint and civilian organizations there, so it's not just an Army thing. This is really a whole of government thing."

Army IMCOM provides direction and oversight to 73 installations that protect national interests worldwide and require a line of defense in cyber security.

"It is a core IMCOM function," Dahl said. "IMCOM should be looking to pull together all service providers, all the people who have a stake or an equity involved, and then integrate that. That's what we do."

"We're in a very challenging environment resource-wise," Dahl concluded. "I knew that coming in. It did not get better during the conference. It may even be more challenging than I imagined. But that's where the hard work has to be done with the senior leadership, to prioritize to ensure we're spending every dime on the right things at the right time, so we can generate as much capability and capacity as possible."