Vital security here in Suffolk

Published 9:00 pm Monday, June 20, 2016


Most folks in Suffolk will never see what takes place behind the gate at the end of Lake View Parkway. For most people in the city, the road effectively ends at the entrance to the parking lot behind the Applebee’s restaurant there. A security booth there, along with an imposing fence, are effective deterrents to the curiosity that might drive the occasional wanderer to see what lies down that road and around the bend.

For many people in Suffolk, the former location of the U.S. Joint Forces Command is simply a blank spot in the city’s geography, an unknown quantity in the landscape of the burgeoning North Suffolk corridor.

Frankly, many who work in that facility now, behind the U.S. flag out front and under the umbrella of Joint Staff, J7, are probably completely at peace with the secretive nature of their labors. And there’s good reason for all the secrecy: A lot of highly classified stuff takes place behind those walls and within that fence.

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Folks in Suffolk, however, should be proud to know that their city plays host to such an important military installation and that vital national security efforts take place there that help keep this city — and this nation — safe.

The Joint Staff Suffolk Complex last week hosted more than 800 individuals from the military, from government agencies and from private-sector industries as they played out a complex and frightening scenario of coordinated cyber attacks against the electrical grid, ports facilities, refineries and even military bases.

The idea was to test how the various agencies and organizations would respond to such an attack — whether it was perpetrated by “hacktivists,” terrorists or nation-states.

The tension in the rooms within the complex was real, even if the scenario they were gaming was simply made up for the exercise, known as Cyber Guard 16. During a real cyber attack, officials said, it will be important for those charged with protecting Americans and their infrastructure to have met and worked together before. “The battlefield is the wrong place to meet for the first time,” one official said.

The Joint Staff complex is the perfect place for such training. Built with raised floors that conceal miles of fiber-optic cable and with reconfigurable walls that allow rooms to be erected and taken down to suit whatever is needed for a particular exercise, the facility is adaptable and scalable to just about any need.

On a more selfish level — at least for Suffolk — the complex’s location here means that when such exercises are held, city hotel rooms fill up, and restaurants and other businesses in the area see a huge influx of business.

There was a time, when the announcement came that Joint Forces Command would be a victim of disestablishment, when things looked pretty bleak for the facility and for those businesses that relied on it for their livelihoods. It’s good to know that Joint Staff Suffolk has turned things around so well for those people and businesses.

What’s even more gratifying, though, is to know that work so vital to the safety of our nation is taking place right here in Suffolk.