One of the world’s largest defense contractors has opened a new cybersecurity shop in San Antonio.

Virginia-based Northrop Grumman opened on Tuesday a 7,700-square-foot cybersecurity facility at Port San Antonio. Known as the company’s Cyber Center, the space comprises a cyber integration lab, meeting space, warehouse space, and production facilities.

“We made the deliberate choice to be here because San Antonio has been growing as a global center of cybersecurity for many years now, and it’s the home of the country’s second-largest concentration of cybersecurity professionals,” said Robert “Bobby” Lentz, the company’s vice president of global cyber solutions.

The cybersecurity workers at Northrop Grumman’s new San Antonio facility will be charged with securing the nation’s critical systems. Specifically, the Cyber Center will carry out the U.S. Air Force’s Cyber Mission Platform, the comprehensive system by which offensive cyber tools and weapons operate, are managed, and delivered.

Northrop Grumman won a $9.4 million contract last year to develop and deploy the Cyber Mission Platform, part of a three-year task order worth as much as $37 million.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) delivered remarks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

Hurd, a former CIA officer whose work in the House of Representatives has centered on cybersecurity and digital defense strategies, thanked the company for growing its footprint in San Antonio.

“[Northrop Grumman’s] expansion in our region underscores our city’s reputation as a growing home for cyber defense,” he said. “This new facility that we’re cutting the ribbon on today is going to house an expanded team of employees dedicated to the military cyber programs.”

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd

The Cyber Mission Platform will provide the foundation for the future of cyber warfare, Hurd said. The Congressman, who often refers to San Antonio as “Cybersecurity City, USA,” said the region’s cyber professional talent pool and its proximity to the 24th Air Force, a division of U.S. Cyber Command, helps bring further local investment in the arena.

Citing competitive and security reasons, Northrup Grumman did not divulge how many employees will work in the Cyber Center, but representatives for the company said the center’s opening signals an expansion in staff. The company has five job openings in San Antonio.

Founded in 1939, Northrop Grumman is a publicly traded company. It posted $25.8 billion in sales in 2017, and employs about 70,000 people. In addition to its cybersecurity operations, the company develops such technology as autonomous systems, including the unmanned surveillance aircraft Global Haw; manned aircraft; and space exploration platforms.

Linnie Haynesworth, vice president and general manager for the company’s Cyber and Intelligence Mission Solutions Division, said Northrop Grumman has been conducting cyber-related work for three decades and has seen how virtual attacks have evolved.

“We know firsthand how the threat is growing and changing here and abroad and the need for a multi-tiered approach for preserving both our economic and national security is critical,” Haynesworth said.

Northrop Grumman is one of the “blue chip” companies doing work in the cybersecurity space, said Jim Perschbach, interim CEO at Port San Antonio. He said the company’s research and development activities and collaboration with government agencies will help keep talent in San Antonio.

“There’s a lot of people who cycle out of the 24th and 25th Air Force life cycle management,” Perschbach said. “We want to make sure they stay here in San Antonio. These are people who have the ability to go anywhere in the country and, frankly, anywhere in the world.”

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.