The Space and Naval Warfare System Center Atlantic's expansive local campus is about to expand.

SPAWAR officials, local dignitaries and military representatives broke ground Monday on a $9.5 million engineering laboratory on the Naval Weapons Station Charleston in North Charleston.

The 20,220-square-foot building will house several dozen information technology engineers who work on high-tech military initiatives such as cyber security.

"This lab represents another key element that will support the innovation we need to make best use of cyberspace for our forces," said Rear Adm. Michael Bachmann, commander of SPAWAR Systems Command in a released statement. SPAWAR is based in San Diego. Its local operation -- a high-tech electronic procurement hub for the Navy and other federal customers -- employs roughly 3,300 federal civil service workers and 9,000 private-sector workers, most of whom report to the Weapons Station.

The need for the new lab stemmed from a 2005 recommendation by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to move a SPAWAR detachment from Pensacola, Fla., to the Charleston area. It will be staffed mostly by personnel who used to work in Pensacola, "as well as new hires/new positions created locally to support work requirements," SPAWAR said in a statement. The new facility is expected to open in the summer of 2011. The job was awarded to Sarasota, Fla.-based Suffolk Construction.

Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or kstech@postandcourier.com