From 2005 to 2011, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) initiative dominated the headlines and captured the attention of the regional business community. As Fort Meade grew through the BRAC process, local business leaders worked diligently to position the region to take full advantage of the growth.
However, while BRAC adjustments have come to a close, the growth at Fort Meade has not stopped and the opportunities for businesses to support the critical missions at the installation have not dissipated.
The growth at Fort Meade has now shifted from BRAC to cybersecurity. While the installation has 117 tenant agencies, the bulk of Fort Meade’s growth will come from two tenants: U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and National Security Agency (NSA).
As the cyberbusiness community knows well, USCYBERCOM and NSA are dealing with constantly evolving threats. As a result, their missions are continually evolving, leading to buildings that have exceeded their useful life and can no longer support the latest technology.
The new growth at USCYBERCOM and NSA will go a long way in decreasing our nation’s vulnerability to foreign computer hackers who aim to dismantle power grids, transportation systems, financial networks or our government. To accommodate the needs for new technology infrastructure and a growing workforce, the “Campus of the Future” (i.e., East Campus) will be a key component of USCYBERCOM and NSA growth.
The following construction is already underway.
- High Performance Computing Center 2 ($792 million)
- East Campus Building #1 ($128 million)
- Joint Operations Center ($358 million)
- Marine Force CYBER ($84 Million)
Lt. Gen. James McLaughlin, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, has publicly stated that a cyberforce of 6,000 staffers is projected to be in place by the end of 2016. While all those workers are not slated for Fort Meade, a considerable portion of that number will contribute to the projected 3,000 new jobs arriving at the installation between 2015–20.
In addition, the East Campus project will have employed more than 10,000 people once completed.
Many defense agencies are trying to avoid downsizing (or even justify their existence) due to significant budget cuts and force reductions. In contrast, cyber is an area receiving considerable attention and resources from the Department of Defense.
Admiral Michael Rogers, commander, USCYBERCOM and director, National Security Agency/Central Security Service, recently stated that he expects a major cyberattack against the United States within the next decade: “It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic.”
Fortunately, the new East Campus on Fort Meade is being developed to increase the capabilities of USCYBERCOM and NSA. The enhanced space, improved infrastructure and larger cyberworkforce coming to Fort Meade will go a long way in helping the country manage the emerging threats, Rogers candidly said.
The strength of USCYBERCOM and NSA, and their impending growth, are critical to the health of our region. NSA alone generates tens of billions of dollars of economic activity in Maryland — before taking into account any of the future growth described above. It is the single largest employer in Maryland, and 85% of its workforce is composed of government civilians and contractor personnel. In fiscal 2013, NSA awarded more than $2.5 billion to more than 500 Maryland companies.
Ultimately, as these facts allude, the cybergrowth at Fort Meade will lead to increased workforce and contracting opportunities for the regional business community. As a region, we need to make sure the business community is well positioned to take full advantage of this growth opportunity, and more importantly, prepared to provide vital support to the expanding missions at Fort Meade.
Raj Kudchadkar is the executive director of the Howard County Office of Military Affairs and deputy coordinator of the Fort Meade Regional Growth Management Committee. He can be contacted at 410-313-6376 and [email protected].