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Fort Meade leads the competition for new U.S. cyber center site

Published 31 July 2009

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recommending the Defense Department create a new agency, U.S. Cyber Command, at Fort Meade, Maryland; if Fort Meade is chosen, Maryland will see the addition of as many as 50,000 government and contracting jobs, bringing in salaries of about $1.7 billion annually

Good news for Maryland. The U.S.’s top military officials are planning to establish a new center for cybersecurity at Fort George G. Meade that could pump billions of dollars into the Anne Arundel County military base and generate untold numbers of jobs for Greater Baltimore’s technology community.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recommending the Defense Department create a new agency, U.S. Cyber Command, at Fort Meade. The Cyber Command would be run by the National Security Agency (NSA) and headed by NSA Director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander.

Baltimore Business Journal’s Daniel Sernovitz writes that state and local economic development officials are lobbying hard for that to happen and are emphasizing Greater Baltimore’s established information technology industry in support of the proposed Fort Meade headquarters.

The project, estimated to cost as much as $30 billion, is not a sure thing yet. The U.S. Strategic Command is studying everything about the proposal, including its costs and its potential home at Fort Meade, and that examination is expected to be completed by 1 September.

Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Butterbaugh, a Defense Department spokesman, said it is logical the headquarters be built at Fort Meade and run by the NSA, which already oversees a handful of smaller Defense Department agencies that would be combined into the new Cyber Command. Other Defense Department agencies could be consolidated into Cyber Command as well.

If it gets the green light, Butterbaugh said, the new agency would be established as early as Oct. 1 and its offices would be completed by October 2010.

The prospect of a cybersecurity headquarters at Fort Meade could be a significant economic development tool for the county, drawing top-notch firms and highly paid and educated workers to Greater Baltimore, said Robert C. Leib, special assistant to County Executive John Leopold. “It’s a great opportunity to become the cybersecurity information center of excellence for the world,” Leib said. Leib is overseeing the county’s preparations for the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan, slated to bring an estimated 5,700 government jobs to Fort Meade. Even if Fort Meade is not picked for the new agency, Leib said the county could still see an economic impact from its creation.

Anne Arundel has the highest concentration of defense contracting firms in the state, and those firms brought in about $2.7 billion in contracts in the past year from government work. Many of those companies, including Northrop Grumman Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., and SAIC,