COLUMBIA, S.C. - The development of a new South Carolina National Guard facility to enhance cybersecurity initiatives for the state will begin in the fall in Aiken, with construction to start in 2022.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's budget for fiscal 2020-2021 includes $15 million for phase two of construction of the Aiken readiness center to modernize the National Guard's cyber mission and provide the basis for collaboration between military, education, business, industry and research centers to protect the infrastructure and attract industry to the state.

"As we advance through the digital age, we must be proactive in fighting cybercrime," McMaster said. "This state-of-the-art facility will make South Carolina a leader in cybersecurity."

Design, environmental and real estate work for the DreamPort and readiness complex should begin in the fall, with construction starting in fall 2022 and taking about two years, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Brad Owens, South Carolina National Guard director of the joint staff.

The cybersecurity facility establishes a partnership between the South Carolina National Guard and the University of South Carolina (USC) Aiken, where the complex will be located near the Savannah River National Laboratory's (SRNL) Advanced Manufacturing Center. The site is near Fort Gordon, Georgia, home of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence. The facility will create a space for cyber experts in the private, government and academic sectors to work closely with Fort Gordon's cyber operations and the SRNL cyber researchers.

"This is an opportunity to be a model across the state and become a source for others as they encounter cyber threats," Owens said. "It will be a place they can seek expert resources."

The facility will provide U.S. Army National Guard signal and cyber Soldiers a place to conduct secure research and training and the state a venue for collaboration, problem-solving and innovation in the cyber domain.

"The DreamPort collaborative will bring cyber expertise to our campus, providing our cybersecurity faculty and students access to some of the best trained cyber experts in America and giving them opportunities to interface with, work alongside and learn from leaders in this field," said Sandra Jordan, USC Aiken chancellor.

In addition to the $15 million in state funds, there will be $15 million in federal money to build the facility.

The South Carolina National Guard's 125th Cyber Battalion, one of five cyber protection battalions in the Army National Guard, is currently located at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.