The main entrance to Scott Air Force Base near Mascoutah, Ill., is seen. (Derik Holtmann / AP)
MASCOUTAH, ILL. — The addition of two cybersecurity squadrons to an Air Force base in southwestern Illinois will bring 320 new jobs within two years and a $16 million investment in the site, members of Illinois’ congressional delegation announced.
Scott Air Force Base near Mascoutah, just east of St. Louis, and another in Texas won the competition among seven finalists for the protection squads, which guard against attacks on the nation’s computer networks, identify hackers, stop the attacks and fix the damage.
Such personnel also pose as hackers, trying to crack into military, Pentagon or other national computer systems.
Calling the Air Force’s cybersecurity operations “critically important to our national security efforts,” Sen. Dick Durbin said he is “always proud to see Illinois’ defense installations play such an important and dynamic part of our nation’s defense.” Durbin, a Democrat, chairs the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“As a 35-year member of the military, I can tell you that this addition is a huge win for Scott,” added U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, a Democrat who once headed the Illinois National Guard and now serves on the House Armed Services Committee. “This is a direct message from the Air Force about Scott’s critical role in cybersecurity.”
Wednesday’s announcement came three months after Durbin led Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on a tour of Scott, hoping to protect the 13,000-employee base — the St. Louis region’s biggest employer — from any future attempts to close, relocate or downsize.
The cybersecurity development project at Scott is to begin this fall, pending completion by mid-July of an environmental analysis.