The logo in the Port San Antonio board room
Port San Antonio, the City of San Antonio, and CPS Energy are partnering to launch the Alamo Regional Security Operations Center, which is expected to be operational by early 2021. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Beware, cybercriminals. San Antonio is getting a new cybersecurity headquarters.

A cybersecurity hub coming to San Antonio will allow area cybersecurity experts to come together and better protect the region from cyberattacks in one central location, a Port San Antonio spokesman announced this week.

Port San Antonio, the City of San Antonio, and CPS Energy are partnering to launch the Alamo Regional Security Operations Center (ARSOC), one of the first integrated multi-agency security operations centers in the nation. The center will be built at Port San Antonio and will bring the City’s and CPS Energy’s security teams – and possibly others in the future – into a single secure facility.

Last Thursday, the San Antonio City Council approved $2.5 million in funding toward the effort, with an initial payment of $1.2 million from the City’s Capital Budget. CPS Energy has dedicated $1.5 million, said Shanna Ramirez, CPS Energy’s vice president and chief integrated security officer. The funds will go toward design, build-out, and putting the needed technologies inside the 20,000-square-foot ARSOC, as the City and CPS Energy will pay zero rent to Port San Antonio. The projected annual operating cost for the facility is $150,000.

The idea for the hub came from Will Garrett, vice president and director of cybersecurity development at Port San Antonio, several years ago, said Craig Hopkins, the City’s chief information officer.

“Before I became CIO of the city, [Garrett] had this idea for this place where multiple agencies could work together,” Hopkins said. “I remember, like my first week on the job, somebody handed me that and said this is Will’s idea.”

Hopkins told the Rivard Report that Patsy Boozer, chief security officer and Hopkins’ assistant director in the Information Technology Services Department, loved the idea and sees it as a chance for all regional municipal agencies – such as CPS, the San Antonio Water System, the San Antonio River Authority, and the City – to bolster their defenses by working together.

With cybersecurity attacks on the rise, San Antonio will be better positioned to coordinate against cyberthreats by having experts from both organizations work side-by-side to monitor threats and ward off potential attacks, Garrett said. 

“We can agree as a society that this threat is getting worse,” Garrett said. “From an industry standpoint, one of the most effective ways to enhance security is to share information.”

The facility will be housed in a building completed in 2018 near 36th Street and Billy Mitchell Boulevard in the heart of the Port’s campus. The ARSOC is expected to be operational by early 2021, Garrett said. The Port values allowing the City and CPS to utilize the building at no cost at approximately $3 million over the 15-year lease term, he added.

“I would note that the fact that it’s at the Port, I think, is important,” Garrett said. “It wasn’t because we had the ability to provide [the space] free of charge but because of the alignment of this regional security operations center to the broader tenants, customers, and partners that already operate on the Port’s campus.”

Conversely, the Port’s planned 130,000-square-foot innovation center will be able to provide ARSOC partners a place to conduct training and public demonstrations that will strengthen collaborations within the region, increase the public’s understanding of critical infrastructure defense, and serve as a showcase for new approaches in cybersecurity that can be adopted by other communities around the nation, he said.

Garrett told the Rivard Report he hopes the ARSOC can provide a multiplier effect “to enhance security and resilience” and to grow and develop new relationships with local military defense institutions. 

The goal is for it to really become a regional hub, Garrett added. The ARSOC will be an asset to smaller municipalities and communities across Texas that may not have the resources to expand personnel within their security departments, he said. 

“We really get the benefit of our pooled resources, which helps a whole lot for entities like CPS Energy and the City of San Antonio,” CPS Energy’s Ramirez said. 

Ramirez added that creating the ARSOC will allow San Antonio to grow and further leverage its unique cybersecurity ecosystem.

San Antonio is known as home to the second-largest population of cybersecurity professionals in the nation, after Washington D.C. Continuing to create infrastructure to draw cybersecurity experts will be beneficial to San Antonio’s economy, Hopkins said. 

Garrett agreed.

“I think we just have the right pieces here to make this not just an amazingly technical and competent space, but something that grows into a resource for the broader region of Central and South Texas,” Garrett said.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...