Casey sees Horsham Air Guard Station as cyberdefense hub

By:  Gary Weckselblatt

If Sen. Bob Casey has his way, the Horsham Air Guard Station will become home to a new cyberdefense squadron.

Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the U.S. Cyber Command, calling the Horsham base “an ideal location” with a “skilled work force.”

In March, the Air Force announced it had selected the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 111th Fighter Wing for its new drone command center, set to begin Oct. 1 at the base.

At that press conference, Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general, broke the news that Horsham was in the running to be part of the Air Force Network Warfare Squadron.

Casey wants the Air Force and U.S. Cyber Command, while they are assessing the future of cybersecurity and the role that the Air National Guard will play in such endeavors, to give Horsham strong consideration.

“Horsham’s work force has built a long reputation for excellence and its ideal location in between Washington and New York would suit what the Air Force is looking for in a new cyber defense hub,” he stated in a press release.

The cybercommand’s duties would also include advanced analysis of threats and reconnaissance of cyberspace.

In his letter to military leaders, Casey wrote that the area’s “academic and business environment would also provide a strong recruiting base for future members of a cybersecurity oriented Air National Guard unit.”

Beginning Oct. 1, the base has two years to get the drone command center operational and train pilots. Col. Howard “Chip” Eissler, commander of the 111th Fighter Wing, estimates the refurbishing to cost between $7 million and $8 million.

He said the project will start with 208 hires, including 79 full-time positions. Those numbers, he said, could grow to 90 full-timers and 250 jobs.