Shreveport Times: Sen. Mary Landrieu touts I-20 corridor to top Homeland Security chief
The Interstate 20 corridor stretching from Monroe to Shreveport has the potential to become the top high-tech, cybersector in the country, and state officials continue to push for federal investment to grow the region’s cyber footprint.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Friday toured the corridor with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to witness the potential for cybersecurity jobs and services.
Landrieu is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
His first stop was at Monroe-based CenturyLink, followed by a visit to the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City to see how both have helped build Louisiana’s cybersecurity workforce and create high-paying technology jobs along I-20 through partnerships with Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University and University of Louisiana at Monroe.
The Cyber Innovation Center helped create 800 new jobs for the Shreveport-Bossier area. CenturyLink plans to create another 800 jobs at its new Technology Center of Excellence.
Louisiana Tech will receive $9 million from the state during the next 10 years to expand programs that will provide technology graduates for CIC and CenturyLink. Tech plans to quadruple its total undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer information systems and cyberengineering over the next five years.
“Over the decades CenturyLink has grown to be a powerhouse in the country, and it’s essential for the protection of our nation,” Landrieu said. “This I-20 corridor has such a great potential to be a cyberinnovation network to protect the government of the United States and many private enterprises, including our critical infrastructure, from some of the most vicious and unusual and newest threats to our government and our way of life.”
Following his tour of CenturyLink, Johnson — who has been secretary for just six months — said he was impressed with the company’s talent for cybersecurity and agrees it will play a pivotal role in this service.
“I wanted to visit this company in particular and make the rounds with the senator to really see the terrific talent we have in the state. CenturyLink has been a terrific partner with the Department of Homeland Security in providing reliable and secure networks and to bring cybersecurity to the private sector,” Johnson said.
In March, CenturyLink won a contract from the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency and is charged with providing a communications system that could survive a nuclear attack. The contract could be worth a total of $1.7 million over the next five years.
CenturyLink will provide a fiber-optic system that’s buried in steel pipe and encased in a concrete conduit to protect it from the effects of high-altitude electromagnetic pulses and ensure continuity of service and survivability.
Because there are only three major Internet providers in the United States, having one headquartered in Monroe along with the three regional universities provides northeastern Louisiana with unique resources not seen anywhere else in the country.
“I think this is a very unique place. We see this area having great potential to be developed into one of the major cyberhubs in the United States,” Landrieu said.