FORT GORDON, Ga. -- The Army took a major step toward the future when Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning joined Army Cyber Command and Second Army commander Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone and other dignitaries Tuesday to break ground on the construction of a new Army Cyber Command Complex here.

The ceremony marked the start of an estimated two-and-a-half-year project that will draw together the Army's cyber operations, capability development, training and education in one location -- the Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon.

During the event, Fanning and Nakasone donned hard hats and manned shovels for the first turning of earth on the project site. They were joined by other Army leaders and senior representatives of ARCYBER's partners in the venture:

-- Army Cyber Command Sgt. Maj. William G. Bruns.

-- Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., commanding general of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon.

-- Hardie Davis Jr., mayor of Augusta, Georgia.

-- Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the Army's chief of Engineers and commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.

-- John Garlington, president of B.L. Harbert International, the contractor for the facility.

Morrison welcomed the more than 100 leaders and guests who attended the ceremony and lauded the project as a landmark for the Army, ARCYBER, the Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, and their many military, civic, industry and academic partners.

"Today's ARCYBER facility groundbreaking ceremony is a culmination of more than five years of hard work to integrate the planning, design and development of an operational headquarters," Morrison said. "[The complex] will not only enhance the Army's capabilities for cyberspace operations, but also enhance the partnerships with academia, industry, and the local Central Savannah River Area communities."

In his own remarks at the ceremony, Fanning said that building the Army's cyberspace capabilities will prove critical to maintaining the Army's readiness and ensuring dominance on the battlefields of today and tomorrow.

"Cyberspace can be considered the ultimate high ground, which means that in modern conflicts, ceding cyberspace invites defeat," Fanning said.

"So what we're building here won't be your typical government facility," he continued. "It will be the U.S. Army's premier warfighting platform for cyberspace operations. It is the weapon system that will ensure our cyber warriors go into battle with the tools they need, and that all our Soldiers can operate in a more secure environment."

The construction of the complex, Fanning assured his audience, will demonstrate to the American people that the Army is committed to extending its warfighting capabilities into cyberspace.

"We are demonstrating to the American people that our commitment to fighting and winning the nation's war extends ... to protecting [the] commerce, communication and critical infrastructure that allow our nation to thrive," he said. "We are demonstrating to our adversaries that, no matter how warfare may change, we intend to fight, win and dominate."

For Nakasone, the groundbreaking represented a series of investments that will yield "unparalleled opportunities" for the Army and the nation. The new complex, he said, is an investment in national security and future readiness, an investment in Fort Gordon's future as the center of gravity for Army cyber operations, and an investment in future cyber capabilities that will ensure the Army remains an "elite force in cyberspace."

"This facility will build on the tremendous momentum the Army has generated in cyberspace over the last six years," the general said. "We are constantly growing operationally, institutionally, and in preparation for the future fight. It will ensure that our teams, both offensive and defensive, train, plan and operate in a state-of-the-art facility equipped with cutting-edge technology, enabling them to provide superior support to joint and Army warfighters."

"Today marks a major leap forward on the road to achieving greater readiness, resilience and strength for Army cyberspace operations," he concluded.

The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in May 2018. The second phase of construction to support Cyber Protection Team operations is expected to be completed in early 2019. The buildings, with a total baseline capacity to support more than 1,200 cyber Soldiers and civilian employees, are projected to be fully ready for occupation in 2020.

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ABOUT US: United States Army Cyber Command and Second Army directs and conducts integrated electronic warfare, information and cyberspace operations as authorized, or directed, to ensure freedom of action in and through cyberspace and the information environment, and to deny the same to our adversaries.

Interested in joining the cyber team? Check out the information links for military and civilian cyber professionals on the ARCYBER home page at www.arcyber.army.mil.