The University of Texas at San Antonio has hired a veteran of U.S. Cyber Command to be the founding leader of its cybersecurity hub set to be built downtown.

Retired Brig. Gen. Guy M. Walsh was announced on Wednesday as UTSA’s pick for the executive director of its National Security Collaboration Center, a partnership between private industry, academia, and government agencies, as the university aims to centralize the city’s sprawling – and often siloed – cybersecurity sector.

“You’ve got a world-class education program here,” said Walsh, who retired from the military in late June to take the job. The new executive director begins his new post immediately.

The center launched operations last year in a temporary space on the university’s main campus. Next year, UTSA expects to begin construction of a co-located collaboration center and School of Data Science at its Downtown Campus.

Building the center and the new school that will consolidate the university’s computing field disciplines, such as computer science, data analytics, and cybersecurity, under one roof will allow UTSA to build a pipeline of students and feed them into local employers, Walsh said, while avoiding brain drain. Expected to be built by 2022, the $33 million, 80,000-square-foot facility will be just east of the university’s Downtown Campus.

“What we’re trying to build now is a world-class ecosystem so that the jobs and the industry coming here will continue to expand and the federal government piece will continue to expand,” he said. “What we’re doing is growing opportunities so that the folks … that come from San Antonio, that come from Texas, will have those same job opportunities to stay here in San Antonio and stay in Texas.”

Walsh has moved from Maryland to San Antonio after a 30-year career in the military that has taken him from active-duty war zones such as Afghanistan to commanding National Guard operations and disaster response teams.

His last assignment in the military was leading strategic initiatives at the U.S. Cyber Command in Fort George Meade. While there, he played a part in developing Cyber Guard, a collaboration between federal and state agencies and private companies that later incorporated entities from academia.

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said in a news release that Walsh has helped transform the nation’s cyber strategy.

“He’s the kind of leader that universities dream about recruiting,” Eighmy said. “By working closely with the partners in our National Security Collaboration Center and by tapping his robust network of government, university and industry leaders, in addition to pursuing and securing cooperative agreements and grants for UTSA, Guy will be an integral player in establishing San Antonio as the nation’s top producer of research and workforce talent in data intelligence and cybersecurity.”

The center will house under one roof a high-tech nexus of U.S. Department of Defense contractors, intelligence agencies, cyberwarriors, and academic researchers. Partners include government agencies such as NSA Texas, the 24th Air Forces Cyber, and U.S. Secret Service; industry partners such as Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, and USAA; and academic partners Arizona State University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and New Mexico Tech.

By having a central facility, these partners can work together on scientific investigations and business enterprises. The center will feature a business incubator, a visualization laboratory that projects data as images onto high-resolution digital walls, and a virtual reality simulator for cybersecurity incidents.

Walsh said UTSA is uniquely positioned to host a collaborative center for tackling cybersecurity challenges.

“Being literally one of the first two – between us and Washington, D.C. – doing this with university, government, and industry is absolutely tremendous,” he said. “The opportunity to be on the ground floor of that is something I’ve definitely been looking forward to.”

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