SPAWAR awards $750M contract to 21 firms (copy)

The Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic’s headquarters are on the Naval Weapons Station in Hanahan. File/Staff

The Navy's innovation hub is taking another step to bring cutting edge technologies to the military, and the latest site for that effort is in Hanahan.

The locally based Atlantic regional office of the Naval Information Warfare Center, known as NIWC, sits on the banks of the Cooper River north of Interstate-526 and employs about 4,500 military and civilian workers in the Charleston area. Last week, it announced the creation of an office charged with cultivating new private industry partnerships within the state and beyond.

The Palmetto Tech Bridge will be the sixth of its kind the Department of the Navy has organized, all within the last few months. Other locations include San Diego and Orlando, Fla., as well as cities in Indiana, Rhode Island and Washington.

The idea is to encourage ideas that mutually benefit both civilian and military enterprises. NIWC — formerly the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, or SPAWAR for short — has sought in recent years to strengthen ties between the Pentagon and private industry.

Tasked with bringing the best and brightest ideas into the hands of the nation's armed services, the center must balance the slow-moving nature of the federal government with the generally speedier pace of private-sector innovation.

“Drawing on the talents from across industry, NIWC Atlantic will focus and facilitate this considerable innovative force on developing dual-use solutions to meet both national defense needs and enhance the region’s economic strength with innovative commercial products,” said Michael Merriken, the Palmetto Tech Bridge's new director.

Merriken and his office will pick a location where professionals from the military and civilian worlds can meet on a regular basis. For now, NIWC has designated one full-time staff member to work on the Palmetto Tech Bridge, which will collaborate with an undetermined assortment of startup businesses, colleges, nonprofits and other employers, from South Carolina and neighboring states.

The program is still in its early days.

A spokesman for NIWC Atlantic said "funding for the Palmetto Tech Bridge will come from a variety of federal, state and private sources." The Department of the Navy and the Office of Naval Research will also chip in limited funds, including contract and grant support. 

The former SPAWAR moniker was was given a new name at the beginning of this year.

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Hacks on the rise

The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs warned South Carolinians that security breaches have spiked this year, resulting in about a 10th of the state population losing control over some of their personal data. 

Roughly 600,000 residents saw their private information exposed between July and October, a 316 percent surge compared to the first six months of the year. The breaches included release of Social Security numbers, full names, dates of birth, usernames, passwords and financial information. 

Security breaches have become common in the digital age. Consumer Affairs said consumers should be careful of phishing attacks, which try to trick people into releasing their private information by pretending to be someone they are not, via emails, text messages or social media posts. 

In the event of a data breach, the agency suggests instituting a fraud alert and security freeze, which will keep scammers from opening new accounts using your information.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.