SPRINGFIELD — Congressman Richard Neal announced a federal allocation of $3 million that will help establish a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (CCE) inside Union Station. The stipend was made possible through Congressional Directed Spending (CDS) from the Department of Education.
The project previously received a state grant of $1.46 million in October 2022.
Both sources of funding will be used to establish the CCE, which will be developed and operated in conjunction with the MassCyberCenter. Along with increasing cybersecurity efforts, the CCE will provide hands-on training and professional opportunities for local college students to develop skills in the cybersecurity industry.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also provided $500,000 to the developing CCE.
Once established, the CCE will operate as a regional entity. The CCE will hire four full-time employees and will have approximately 15 to 20 students in training.
Neal made the announcement inside Union Station. Sarno, STCC President John Cook and Springfield Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Amanda Pham remarked on the funding announcement, while American International College President Hubert Benitez, President from Bay Path University, Sandra Doran, and the president of Elms College, Harry Dumay, were present to support the project.
Neal highlighted how paramount cybersecurity has become in today’s society. He said cybersecurity measures are deeply embedded in his day-to-day role as a congressman.
“We talk about it all the time in Washington. You can’t go to a national defense agencies rally [or] intelligence gathering agencies where cybersecurity is not addressed… Even when members of congress go to the briefing, they check your phone and put the [security] wand on you, Neal said.
Neal focused on the educational benefits of CCE. The congressman envisions the project to develop a beneficial “ecosystem” for educational institutions and the community.
“It’s not only going to be a big use of space, but anytime you have colleges and universities of that reputation, it makes a huge difference… It’s building its own ecosystem and its own community,” Neal said.
Neal also reflected on the positive impact the CCE will have on future generations.
“I think it’s a worthwhile investment and generations will reap the benefits of what we’ve done,” Neal said.
Cooke said he originally offered the CCE to Neal a few years ago. He shared that the project received more financial support than expected.
“It’s not often you ask for a certain amount that you often get more than that,” Cooke said.
Additionally, Cooke highlighted the holistic impact the CCE will have on educational entities and various other sectors.
“The now combination of local, state, and federal funds brings sustainability to the effort to provide cyber-learning to higher education in the region, while the Security Operations Center will serve to strengthen municipal governments, nonprofits and businesses in their efforts to strengthen IT protections,” Cooke said.
Sarno also celebrated CCE’s opportunities to provide education, additional jobs, and improved cybersecurity throughout Western Massachusetts.
“It also brings training to work with our local higher education institutions here, and also an opportunity for a good four-letter word – jobs,” Sarno said.
Sarno expressed his gratitude to Neal for securing funding for the local project.
“Once mayor, always the heart of a mayor, [Neal] never forget his hometown here in Springfield,” Sarno said.
Pham explained how the CCE will be an essential addition to Springfield.
“This center will build cybersecurity resilience in Western Massachusetts while enabling our workforce to meet the needs of this evolving industry. Western Massachusetts is home to many institutions of higher education, and we are encouraged by the ongoing collaborative partnerships – all to improve the lives of our students and the community as a whole,” said Pham.
The development of a CCE is one of 15 CDS projects for which Neal has obtained financial resources. The 15 projects total over $20 million in funding.