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House committee approves $8M to create National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center near UCCS

April 26, 2016 Updated: April 26, 2016 at 10:37 pm
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The vacant half of the Mortgage Solutions Financial Expo Center is pictured on Thursday, January 14, 2016. Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled plans to open a National Cyber Intelligence Center in Colorado Springs that would help businesses and government agencies combat and recover from cyber attacks and teach about cyber security. The former TRW plant is a likely location for the center. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

A committee that holds the purse strings in Colorado approved spending $8 million Tuesday morning to renovate a building in Colorado Springs to house the National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center in Colorado Springs.

The money will predominately be spent renovating a vacant manufacturing plant near the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs that is currently being used as an exposition hall, said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, sponsor of the bill.

Hamner said this was the most important bill of the session for her.

"It will put Colorado on the map as far as fighting cyber security threats," Hamner said.

She said the bill will allow the state to better respond to incidents of hacking and cyber attacks, create a cyber institute and create a rapid response center.

Hamner said $6 million is coming from the federal government and other funding is coming from private partnerships.

Gov. John Hickenlooper mentioned the project in his state of the state address and his senior policy director testified Tuesday in favor of the bill. Three Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted against the bill, however, expressing concern that there wasn't a clear explanation of what the state was signing up for.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, asked whether this was a one-time expense or whether the state was going to have to make further allocations in future years.

Hamner said it's unclear what the future cost, if any, the center will be to the state. She said that the university in partnership with private entities will cover most operating expenses.

But the bill did have bi-partisan support with Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, supporting the measure.

Joshi said Colorado Springs already has most of the infrastructure in place, including over 50 military subcontractors ready to work on the project.

"With all these facts, I think it is a very wise investment," Joshi said.

The University of Colorado will have oversight of the money, but according to House Bill 1453, the money would have to be spent at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for "establishing and expanding cyber higher education programs and cyber education training laboratories and for establishing a secure environment for research and development."

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. It must pass the Senate before going to the governor's desk.

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Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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