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Israeli Military's Desert Base to Get a Big Tech Neighbor

Photographer: Dan Balilty/AP Photo

An Israeli airforce pilot at the Hatzerim military base in the Negev desert, southern Israel, 2009. Close

An Israeli airforce pilot at the Hatzerim military base in the Negev desert, southern Israel, 2009.

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Photographer: Dan Balilty/AP Photo

An Israeli airforce pilot at the Hatzerim military base in the Negev desert, southern Israel, 2009.

As the Israeli military moves into a desert compound under construction in the southern part of the country, EMC is planning to expand its operations near by.

EMC, taking advantage of its proximity to the military base in the Negev desert, plans to battle a global cyber-skill shortage by culling employees from and developing technologies with the Israeli intelligence corps. Many engineers in the country's high-tech industry are graduates of military intelligence units.

"It is perfect for us to attract talent," said Yael Villa, the general manager at RSA Israel, the security division of EMC. "We are also having a lot of conversations with the army and trying to find a plan for collaboration."

Israel's military has started building a training base in the southern desert of Negev. It's relocating from the central-coastal area near Tel Aviv to free up choice real estate. More than 30,000 soldiers will be transferred to the new southern bases, and about 25 billion shekels ($6.79 billion) will be invested in developing infrastructure.

Foreign investment from companies like EMC is crucial to the growth of Israel's technology industry. Startups in Israel have raised more than 65 percent of funding each quarter since 2011 from investors outside the country, according to the IVC Research Center, which tracks Israel's tech industry. High tech is important to Israel's economy, representing about half of the country's industrial exports.

Beyond access to talent, the government has put in place incentives, including subsidies, to lure multinationals like EMC to establish businesses in Negev. Among the intelligence forces being moved south are those serving in elite security forces that make up the military's cyber-warriors.

"There is a global skill shortage," Tom Heiser, the president of RSA, said in an interview. "If we can be where the skills are -- whether from the military or from universities -- we will have early access to the talent pool."

Of the 1,000 or so people EMC employs in Israel, more than 70 are based in the southern city of Beersheva. Some of them graduated from nearby Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which has an advanced computer-science program that EMC collaborates with. EMC plans to have more than 150 employees working in that office in the next two years.

"There is a lot of innovation out of Israel in the area of cybersecurity," Heiser said. "Certainly on a per capita basis, the activity in Israel blows away any place else."

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