KILLEEN — Community members, city officials and Fort Hood military leadership gathered at the Bill Yowell Conference Center on the Texas A&M University-Central Texas campus Friday afternoon for the announcement of the new cybersecurity contract.

A&M-Central Texas President Marc Nigliazzo was happy to break the news about the $4.2 million contract the university has been awarded by the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Air Force.

“The contract award will allow us to open a cybersecurity center on campus, opening the opportunity for our partnerships with other Texas A&M University System institutions and agencies, while further strengthening our relationships with the Army’s Operational Test Command,” he said.

The scope of the research is to protect cyber infrastructure against external manipulation of hardware and software.

The research is expected to reduce hardware and software vulnerability to cyberattacks in areas including military defense, law enforcement and national infrastructure.

Nigliazzo pointed out the role U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, played in the approval process besides Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp and Ross Porter, vice president for research and economic development, who were all present during the announcement.

“The help we got … kept us on track and finally made it happen,” Nigliazzo said.

A milestone on the way to the contract was the purchase of a new scanning electron microscope in 2017, that was facilitated by Sharp’s research initiative.

Without the new equipment, “we would have never reached our current level of research capability in such a short period of time,” Nigliazzo said.

The cybersecurity contract will not only enable the university to conduct research in the fields of cybersecurity and data analytics but also expand the collaboration with Fort Hood to put the best technology into the hands of soldiers.

“We are an Army community,” Carter said. “I am very proud that this university helped our war fighters to be better citizens, better soldiers and better winners. That is what this is all about.”

While past wars were mainly fought on land, in the air and on the sea, cyber is the new battlefield, according to Carter.

Because of the proximity to Fort Hood and the close relationship to military leadership, chancellor Sharp felt the launch of the new study in Killeen was appropriate and necessary.

“The future of research is cybersecurity,” he said. “This is about making sure that we protect (our soldiers) and their secrets so that they are not in danger.”

Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra, who attended the event, had great expectations for the growth of the university and the city itself.

“A lot of people are going to make use of this great university and when they see something like this, I think it is a tremendous attractor,” he said.