Augusta, GA (WJBF) – Fort Gordon is a fixture in the CSRA, and it is playing a key roll in national security at the same time. As Fort Gordon’s role in cyber warfare grows, so does its mark on the community that surrounds it. Col. Todd Turner, the Fort Gordon Garrison Commander, sees a partnership between all parties involved, and he took some time to stop by The Means Report to share the changes that are taking place with cyber, traffic, and how the community can be active on post.
Brad Means: Today we are going to tackle a topic that you have to know about, it’s impossible to ignore, it is Fort Gordon, Georgia and all of the exciting things that are happening on-post and off-post for that matter. You know, as somebody who has the privilege of delivering the news each night, there’s not a night that goes by that we do not talk about something Fort Gordon related, or cyber related. They are a key part of this community and have been for generations. So, today we’re going to talk to one of the leaders at Fort Gordon to find out what is happening out there and what the exciting future holds. I think that you’ll find it very informative and I think that you’ll find as you drive around town and as you drive around post, you will recognize and appreciate things a lot more when you hear the backstory to what is going on in our fine community. The state of cyber at Fort Gordon, the cyber jobs that are coming and the relationship that we have with our beloved military post here. I can’t think of a better person to help break it all down than Colonel Todd Turner. Colonel Turner is Garrison Commander at Fort Gordon. First of all Colonel Turner, thank you for your service and welcome.
Col. Todd Turner: Brad, thanks for having me, I really, really appreciate the offer and look forward to today’s engagement.
Brad Means: Well, me too and on behalf of our audience, us to. As the Garrison Commander it’s fair to say you are the mayor of Fort Gordon is that pretty accurate?
Col. Todd Turner: Well, you know, some people use mayor, I like to use city administrator. But I think I wear both hats at times. Primarily I’m responsible for running the infrastructure of the installation. Everything from public works, access control points, guards, emergency services. And then of course a lot of the administrative processes for military personnel and those type activities. And then, of course, one of my primary duties, delegated from the Commanding General himself is community engagement on his behalf when he’s out of town.
Brad Means: Well, I think you’re excelling at all of those areas especially the last one. We see you all over this community at every function and I’m glad that you’re representing Fort Gordon so well. Let’s start with those access control points. I guess you would be would put this in that category, the gates of Fort Gordon, whether you work on-post or whether you just drive around town. You can appreciate the traffic that that place generates. How are things going on improving access to and from the Fort?
Col. Todd Turner: So about 18 months ago we had a backlog of about 11 thousand names in our NCIC III background check data system. So Department of Defense mandated several years ago that 100% of people that access a federal installation need a background check. We had a backlog, we cleared that in six weeks last summer. And we’ve been able to maintain that up to about a 72 hour period. Where were able to deliver passes for folks that need up to 30 days or even up to a 12 month pass. So we feel very comfortable about what we’ve done on gate access, we’ve been able to maintain it. We’re real excited about that.
Brad Means: Once you have that background clearance and that pass, you don’t have to get your car checked out?
Col. Todd Turner: So that background check is good for one year. Now, depending on what the purpose of your visit is, we can issue a pass up to 30 days on the spot at the Visitor Control Center, or up to 12 months. So if you have a reason to frequent Fort Gordon or you play golf use our our range complex. One of our Morale, Welfare and Recreation will issue up to a 12 month card. Now, when you go through the gate, you can present that card to the guard and you’ll be able to flow through without going to the Visitor Control Center.
Brad Means: OK, that’s great and are they building any new gates anytime soon?
Col. Todd Turner: Absolutely, so we just met with the Georgia Department of Transportation earlier this month and the Savannah District Corps of Engineers and the gate project it is a perfect example the partnership that we have with this local community. Georgia has chipped in $8 million and $2 million from both Richmnd and Columbia County to expand Gordon Highway on the exterior portion of the new gate, which will be called gate six. That will break ground in March of next year. So we’re literally about four months from breaking ground on a new gate. The delivery of that gate, we believe it will open, right now, ribbon cutting projected in March of 20.
Brad Means: Who benefits from that, the people who live near gate six or the people who will want to switch the way they get on and off-post to gate six?
Col. Todd Turner: I think it will be a win-win in both cases. Now, what we’re seeing on the installation itself is we’re seeing a little bit of a migration of our workforce population over to the west side of our containment area. That’s why gate six was the location of the new gate six, was out further west along Gordon highway. That gate will, eventually as it comes online, we will close gate three and gate two. One of our biggest challenges is Robinson Avenue as folks come out of Grovetown and they’re making either a left to go east bound to gate one or west bound to go to or directly straight into gate two. Or making a right westbound into gate three. We think as Robinson Road continues to get improved and expanded and we can flow that traffic to the larger new gate which is going to have six lanes coming in and four going out at its largest point, that we’re going to be able to handle a lot more traffic. Now, we also continue to advocate for, potentially, a new connector. You know as we you look at Jimmie Dyess, that’s a great artery to I-20 and it really feeds right into gate one. Down the road we would love to to see, and will work with our community partners to continue to address traffic and maybe see another connector down the road that would go would help service the new access control point, gate six, down the road.
Brad Means: Well, I know people are thrilled to hear that. The better you can get on and off Fort Gordon the better for all of us. Let’s talk about the state of cyber right now on-post. We see off-post just everything happening. Buildings coming up out of the ground, tens of millions of dollars coming from the Governor to help that, what about on-post? The Cyber Center of Excellence announcement came, it feels like ages ago, what are you seeing on-post when it comes to cyber?
Col. Todd Turner: So we just saw you know Governor Deals announcement that came out Monday regarding another $35 million in the phase two of the Cyber and Innovation training and and I actually I saw Dr. Kiel yesterday at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and I made the comment to the group I wish the military and the federal government could build as quickly as the State of Georgia.
Brad Means: Seriously.
Col. Todd Turner: Now our budget cycle obviously and our acquisition process for infrastructure just doesn’t allow us to be, to produce our infrastructure that we need as rapidly as we really need it. We, right now, are restricted to the Secret Compartmental Instruction Facility. When we teach cyber, we we need to do it in a classified space. The Signal Center, previously four years ago, before we converted to the Cyber Center we only had three classified classrooms. We now have 13 and we’re rapidly expanding that capability and we want, our goal, is to achieve 66 classified classrooms by 2025.
Brad Means: Are people using them right now?
Col. Todd Turner: Absolutely.
Brad Means: Are these people who are coming from other towns to be here? We always hear about this influx of people and how that’s going to be the real boost from cyber, new people, new families. They’re in those classrooms now?
Col. Todd Turner: That’s right. So we’re you the only service that stood up a cyber branch so we have our own dedicated career field for cyber. Up until, really in March, we still were sending our enlisted to either the Navy course down in Pensacola or to other other governmental agencies to get trained before they came to get additional training here at Fort Gordon. At this point now, since we now have, we added 10 new classrooms that came online just in February and March of this year. Because we’ve been able to add those classrooms, we now are training all cohorts across our cyber workforce. So that’s the Officer, Warrant Officer, Enlisted, Non-commissioned Officers, and we now are incorporating electronic warfare, which currently is up at Fort Sill, but it falls under our cyber school and we’re working towards, eventually, at some point, maybe 2022, 2023, moving that electronic warfare school down here to Fort Gordon as well, which would add about another 500 students per year to come through Fort Gordon for training.
Brad Means: When we hear about the bad guys trying to hack into our digital electronic cyber systems. When we hear about people trying to get our Social Security numbers and credit card information is it accurate or fair to picture people at Fort Gordon trying to thwart those efforts?
Col. Todd Turner: So from us, two separate things here between civil and the military networks, right. We still, the military, cannot police on US soil, so Department of Homeland Security is doing cyber defense of the things that you would think of. Military networks now, that is exactly what we’re doing, where we are we are defending and conducting operations on military networks, primarily. That’s why we’re developing or we’re building the cyber workforce.
Brad Means: Remember those video images we saw of the SEAL team going in and raiding Osama Bin Laden’s home. Is it possible that those images could come from a place like Fort Gordon. They could provide real-time video of things on the other side of the planet.
Col. Todd Turner: Oh, absolutely, and I mean frankly we have intelligence organizations located on Fort Gordon right now, that are conducting 24/7 operations both in intelligence, cyber and they’re supporting the combatant commanders forward tonight on missions that are ongoing around the world. So just feel good, feel confident, that there are people out there watching and really, protecting our national security from Fort Gorden.
Brad Means: It is amazing to hear you say that and I always suspected that it is going on out there 24/7, but yeah that is reassuring to hear that, to know that those men and women are working so hard on our behalf. So where are they gonna live, what kind of jobs are coming to this area because of cyber? What does the future hold in that regard? These are topics we’re going to continue to tackle with Colonel Todd Turner the Garrison Commander at Fort Gordon, he is our special guest today as The Means Report continues.
Brad Means: Welcome back to the means report, we appreciate you staying with us. Colonel Todd Turner is the Garrison Commander at Fort Gordon and he is our special guest today. So, we were talking about, Colonel Turner, all of the people who are coming to Fort Gordon to work especially in the cyber industry. To study, to learn, to work on behalf of our country. Where do they live? Do you have an adequate housing on-post and if not what do you need from the community in that regard?
Col. Todd Turner: So we absolutely do not have adequate housing on-post. You look, we have just over a thousand homes on the installation, many of them, about 70% or so, were built in the 1950s and 1960s. So we are actually working with our privatized partner right now to potentially just reduce our inventory. So, in other words just bring our inventory down, maybe to around 800 homes or so and we’re looking to the local community to primarily deliver quality and affordable homes for our workforce.
Brad Means: Where do these people live? All kinds of neighborhoods?
Col. Todd Turner: They do, and you know, you look at, you talk gate access earlier, we get about 50% of all our traffic comes through gate one. Which is is really kind of co-located between Richmond and Columbia County. Could have folks coming across from North Augusta through that gate. About 25% through the South Gate at gate five, and the remainder to the north-northwest. So it’s fairly balanced, I mean, if you look at where our workforce lives and where they’re commuting from, they’re coming from both Richmond, Columbia and even Aiken County.
Brad Means: How are the school systems pulling through for you so far to help the children who come?
Col. Todd Turner: That’s a great question and you know one of the first things that most people ask about is schools. And so we’re tremendous advocates of our local school system. We have a Richmond County public school K through eight Freedom Park, that is on our installation. So we partner, we attend all the board meetings and we partner with them. This past May we we signed agreements with all the public high schools and we aligned Brigade equivalent sized organizations that can partner with those high schools and all the feeder schools within that public district to provide mentors. And one things we’ve seen as immediate impact is last year we only had eight teams participate in CyberPatriot which is an annual competition. This year we have 81 teams.
Brad Means: That’s incredible.
Col. Todd Turner: That’s a direct reflection of this partnership and the mentoring that has occurred through the Adopt-a-School partner in education program.
Brad Means: Are you pleased with the curriculum that our schools are offering to get these kids cyber ready?
Col. Todd Turner: So we are and we participated, a couple years ago and the developing the cyber pathway with the state of Georgia and our local superintendents. This year we’re seeing that the first senior class that participated in the cyber pathway. We’ve been working with the local community and units on the installation to provide internships and partnering opportunities. Those those students right now are going after their cyber certificates and which is not an easy task. We’re very comfortable with where we’re at. There’s a lot of initiatives from STEM, robotics that are very exciting to see really across the region.
Brad Means: Do you have to join the military to get a job on-post?
Col. Todd Turner: No, and frankly, you know if you look at our workforce we have about 15,000 active Guard Reserve on the installation. We have about 10,000 civilian employees. So, it’s nearly 50/50 and so I would tell anybody who’s interested in going pursuing cyber, look at information technology degrees, Electrical Engineering, big data analytics. I mean there’s several of these degrees that they could pursue, that will then set them up. Now, the other piece that I have to mention here.
Brad Means: Sure.
Col. Todd Turner: Is, if you’re gonna get into cyber at the highest level and we’re talking offensive, defensive, national security, you really need to be able to get a top secret clearance. So that that’s the other piece. So while you’re getting that degree at college think about those decisions that you may make that could impact that clearance.
Brad Means: But, you know, we can spend two shows on that. But let me just ask you real quickly, keep your nose clean?
Col. Todd Turner: That’s right.
Brad Means: What about, and I would love to use this just in my next lecture to my children. Any little thing you post might derail your career dreams, right.
Col. Todd Turner: That’s right, absolutely.
Brad Means: How deep do you all dig into somebody’s background or their social media behavior when you’re considering a hire?
Col. Todd Turner: Well, you know with any of our secret and TS clearances they all go to a certain level of background and obviously the TS is going to go to a much deeper level than a secret clearance would. And then, of course, if you’re going to work in the highest level career fields within cyber, you’re most likely going to get a polygraph test. These are the the layers of defense that you got to consider when you’re making life decisions even at an early age.
Brad Means: It’s not just your conduct, it’s your, I mean not just your grades, it’s your conduct as well.
Col. Todd Turner: Absolutely.
Brad Means: Let me ask you about the opportunity for businesses to pop up, to feed off of this cyber surge that we’re seeing here. More opportunities on-post for private companies to set up shop or off-post near you, you know, so they can be near everything that’s going on. What does the business man or woman need to know?
Col. Todd Turner: I think both of those options are likely with an opportunity for having contracts awarded. As Army Cyber and I haven’t really talked Army Cyber yet which it’s important to note. Army Cyber headquarters, their building is currently under construction and will come online in the summer, they’re hoping, in summer of ’20. It could slide to ’21 depending on any kind of delays that we may come up with. But they’re bringing a workforce of about 1,200 folks from the National Capital Region and so they won’t move all of those folks and they’ll need to hire some of them. Now they also will have contracting requirements, just as we do as we’re in the capability development business over at the Cyber Center of Excellence. There are some contracting requirements, whether it’s running the schoolhouse, teaching our students, looking at future capability or supporting the operational force. There will be some opportunities on the installation. But as we’ve seen at like Fort Meade, for example, and most military towns you do get military contractors. They want a habitual relationship with the customer. Just like any business owner and you want to be close to that customer, so I anticipate as Army Cyber, you know, the move of Army Cyber in summer of 2020, the closer we get to that move I think you’ll start seeing many businesses and defense contractors most likely, move into the area.
Brad Means: And do you have people on hand to kind of walk them through that process. If someone wants a piece of that DoD pie that they can go to Fort Gordon and figure out where to start?
Col. Todd Turner: Absolutely, and we have the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, affectionately known as MICC, they are the folks that solicit all of our requirements and I think they’re going to have an open house in December. You can go on Fort Gordon’s website and look for the MICC information on that open house and that’s how those local businesses can look for opportunities.
Brad Means: Are you closure proof, I don’t want to jinx anything, but with everything you’re talking about. We had so many worries years ago about Base Realignment and Closure, are those gone for good?
Col. Todd Turner: Well, I think, you know there was probably valid concern back in ’05, I think it was, Gordon was, considered on that list potentially in the potential closure list. Fortunately for us, we weren’t, and now you see that the growth of the NSA, the growth of Cyber Center of Excellence, the move of Army Cyber headquarters. The momentum and growth now, I mean just over the last five years we’ve grown by 25%. There’s nearly 70 major construction projects between ’17 and ’25 alone, is estimated at $1.6 billion. So there’s a significant investment being made in Fort Gordon so I personally believe we’re on a path that would most likely keep us on the map for many decades to come. What we really advertise is that we’re a great installation for relocation. That R in BRAC is relocation. So we say, hey, if you want to bring additional units to Fort Gordon what we’re set up to support them. We got the maneuver areas to do that. You know, just you’re gonna need to bring money to build a building because our buildings are full as far as square footage and occupation numbers. But we’re postured very well, we believe, to remain a national asset for decades to come.
Brad Means: What about for those who seek recreational opportunities at Fort Gordon, you think golf, you think bowling, you think dinner theater, talk about what’s available out there.
Col. Todd Turner: Well, we run we run 37 businesses in our Morale, Welfare and Recreation. our golf course, Gordon Lakes, has been named the number one golf course in the Army by PGA.com since 2011. And of course you know it’s fitting to be in Augusta and have have the best golf course in the Army to compare with the course downtown. We’re very proud about that. Many other businesses from the horse stables to our outdoor shooting where we have a long-range 800 yard, target, skeet trap, archery. Many different programs. But I’ll tell you, like any city, we’ll never have all the amenities that our soldier, sailor, airmen, marines and their families are ever gonna want so we do partner with the community and obviously the community is doing a tremendous amount of heavy lifting and trying to improve the amenities. And you look at the economic development. The plans at project Jackson across the river, you look at what they’re going to do downtown, you’re looking at the Evans Town Center concept pathways, bike ways, all those things being developed are what our work force, and we think what our cyber workforce is going to look for. So we very much stay engaged in trying to run our Morale, Welfare and Recreation. We’d love to have the community use our facilities just like our workforce does off-post.
Brad Means: It’s interesting to hear you say that, because we think of Fort Gordon being so self-contained and it is, but you depend a lot on the community, public and private interests to give your folks stuff to do.
Col. Todd Turner: Absolutely.
Brad Means: Very quickly, you talked about the recreational opportunities and you touched on this in our first segment, but if I want to play golf, if I want to go do something out there, the best bet is to arrange to get a pass and then do that versus budgeting another hour for car inspection before I tee off.
Col. Todd Turner: That’s right, absolutely. So the first visit you when you come to Fort Gordon come through gate one we have a Visitor Control Center there. The average wait time is about eight minutes.
Brad Means: Eight minutes?
Col. Todd Turner: Eight minutes, you get a background check, you’ll get your pass. You say I’m going out to Gordon Lakes, I want to play around to golf today. Once you get out to Gordon Lakes, you say I want to be a frequent user of this facility. I want to come out and play golf on a monthly basis, I’d like to get to 12-month pass. You’ll fill out your paperwork, there the manager at the golf course will send it in to our physical security section. They’ll send you an email when the background check, and your AIE card, your Automated Installation Entry card is available, and usually that’s within 72 hours. On your next time you come out to tee off, you stop in there take your photo get your card made and then you got 12 months of just going through the gate without being without stopping at the Visitor Control Center.
Brad Means: Just easy access.
Col. Todd Turner: Easy access.
Brad Means: Colonel Turner, thanks for shining the light on everything at Fort Gordon, we appreciate it so much, it’s been extremely informative and I’m grateful to you. And as I said at the top especially for your service.
Col. Todd Turner: Thank you very much, thanks for having me and I just want to tell you and your family and all your viewers happy holidays on behalf of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at Fort Gordon, thanks for what you do for us each and every day as well as what you do for our families.
Brad Means: Thank you sir. Colonel Todd Turner, Garrison Commander at Fort Gordon.