President of UTSA Taylor Eighmy gives the keynote address.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy speaks about the planned National Security Collaboration Center. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The University of Texas at San Antonio’s $40 million cybersecurity hub is likely more than two years away from completion, but that hasn’t stopped the university from setting up shop in a 25,000-square-foot temporary space on its main campus.

UTSA has locked down agreements with nine industry partners to colocate in the National Security Collaboration Center with 11 more corporations considering teaming up. The collaboration center would create an ecosystem of higher education institutions, federal agencies, and corporate entities in the national security sector within or near an 80,000-square-foot structure UTSA is aiming to build downtown.

“We don’t have time to wait for a new building,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said Tuesday during his keynote speech at CyberTexas, a cybersecurity conference taking place at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’ve learned that momentum is really critical” when it comes to encouraging “these collaborations and collisions between our government partners, our industry partners, and our own faculty, staff, and students,” Eighmy said. “So rather than wait for our new building … why don’t we just get on with the business and purpose of the National Security Collaboration Center? We can’t do it at full scale and size, but it’s better to have these rich relationships and collaborations develop now. That way when we’re ready with our new building we can move this whole enterprise in, and it will already be up and running.”

In all, 19 individuals and entities have signed letters of support and commitment to partner with the university on its goal to build a national cybersecurity center in San Antonio, the most recent of which are national IT consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and local cybersecurity firm IP Secure. Elected officials such as Mayor Ron Nirenberg and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) have also pledged support for the project.

Current federal partners include the U.S. Secret Service, Army Research Laboratory, NSA Texas, the 24th and 25th Air Force, the FBI, and the Department of Energy National Labs. UTSA is pursuing four more agreements with federal agencies.

The collaboration center will comprise research centers, facilities for classified research, equipment for high-powered computing, space for early-stage technologies and startups, and a cyber range – a virtual shooting range for training cyberwarriors.

It’s all part of Eighmy’s vision for creating a “Texas Cyber Corridor,” a statewide nexus of UT System research institutions including those in El Paso, Arlington, Dallas, and Austin. UTSA’s National Security Collaboration Center, set to be located at its downtown campus, would be the epicenter of that corridor, Eighmy said.

“We want the great state of Texas to be No. 1, but we also want San Antonio to be the hub for this cyber corridor in Texas,” he said. “We’re discussing this at the statehouse level, with our elected officials in Austin, with our elected officials in D.C., and with [Gov. Greg Abbott].”

Port San Antonio endorses the National Security Collaboration Center project, CEO Jim Perschbach said in remarks prior to Eighmy’s speech.

“[Eighmy’s] vision not just for the National Security Collaboration [Center] but for the cyber corridor … is going to be what drives not just this community but this industry into the next few centuries,” Perschbach said.

Port San Antonio CEO Jim Perschbach.
Port San Antonio CEO Jim Perschbach has pledged support for UTSA’s planned cybersecurity hub. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

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