University leaders in Maryland have announced their vision for a joint Maryland Academy for Innovation in national security.

Arising from a strategic partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), the Academy is also a strategic gamble in the plays being made to secure Greenbelt as the General Services Administration (GSA)’s choice for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s new home.

The short list of locations also includes Landover and Springfield, Va. The GSA is expected to make its choice by the end of the calendar year.

The Academy is designed to harmonize UMB and UMCP’s relevant capabilities in terrorism and counterterrorism studies, intelligence analysis, cybersecurity and high performance computing, criminology and criminal justice, homeland security law and crisis management.

It would be located on the UMCP campus and build on existing programs at UMCP and UMB that include the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the Maryland Cybersecurity Center, the Center for the Advanced Study of Languages and the Schools of Law, Medicine and Business.

“[T]he Maryland Academy would provide the world’s preeminent law enforcement organization with a continuous pipeline of pioneering research and access to a world-class regional workforce,” said UMCP President Wallace Loh. “This is an exciting joint initiative that leverages our collective research and talent in an effort to help foster continuous innovation at the FBI.”

Transportation Factor

Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan said Greenbelt’s location and connectivity options make it an ideal choice. “So many things come together at the Greenbelt Metro station: the highway system, the MARC train, WMATA lines; it’s a nexus point,” Jordan said. “This station really does link the two areas between the universities.”

Former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, whose Margrave Strategies consulting firm was tapped in 2014 to strategize on economic development and growth at UMCP and its surrounding communities, said the combination of the new Academy and locating the FBI in Greenbelt could extend benefits to commuters throughout the region.

“We’re hoping this can be a catalyst to elevate the frequency of trains on the MARC lines,” Ulman said. “It’s a cost question for CSX, though, because running a higher frequency means they’ll have to have more people on site.”

Acknowledging that the 11,000 FBI employees “ain’t all going to be driving private cars,” Loh said the FBI’s process of transforming itself into a law enforcement agency based upon intelligence and leadership could be well-served through close proximity and connectivity to the two major research universities in the region.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman agreed that the choice of Greenbelt would benefit the entire region. “We have tremendous workforce development in central Maryland and our schools … emphasize cybersecurity,” he said. “Ken Ulman, my predecessor, did a great job working hard to make sure we had transit-oriented developments along the Route 1 Corridor and Camden line, and we now have three [which are located in Elkridge, Savage and North Laurel]. We can provide that place for people to live, play and get down here without driving.”

Leveraging Success

According to Loh, there are a few incidental factors that already link the FBI with the University System of Maryland.

“There are more graduates from College Park working at the FBI than from any other university in the country,” he said.

And after the anthrax attack that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “geneticists at UMB sequenced the DNA [and] computational biologists in College Park were able to deliver the bacterial fingerprints to identify the source of that particular strain of anthrax. This is the kind of research that is an essential part of a law enforcement operation in the 21st century.”

Moreover, he said, the area surrounding College Park is becoming a regional hub for innovation and economic development.

UMB President Jay Perman added that UMB is already a key resource for the national security and crisis management communities.

“We train top-level enforcement and intelligence officers, and the nation relies on our leadership in containing and curing diseases of global impact,” he said. “Imagine what we can do when we join our efforts with our colleagues at College Park. Imagine this Academy as a test bed for the emerging strategies and technologies that will ultimately keep us safe.”


START Executive Director William Braniff said he envisions a vibrant brick and mortar campus where an assistant special agent in charge for counterterrorism can rub shoulders with a criminology Ph.D. student, a data scientist developing machine learning solutions to leverage big data or an undergraduate looking for an internship that will ignite her career.

“The Maryland Academy will create a thriving ecosystem where the FBI can mentor and recruit the best talent and harness their own experiential knowledge in tailored degree programs, research partnerships, practitioner and residential sabbaticals and training partnerships,” Braniff said. “And of course leverage the massive research and development efforts already underway on their doorstep.”

The exact location for the Academy hasn’t been decided yet, “but it will be a physical place that will integrate classrooms for education, professional training and student internships,” he said. “It’s really a vibrant environment.”

Make It Happen

Francis Carey School of Law Dean Donald Tobin said he believes the Academy could be particularly effective in enhancing the FBI’s talent pipeline and achieving its workforce development goals.

“We are educating professionals already working at NASA, NSA, the Pentagon, Fort Meade, the IRS and many cybersecurity companies and startups,” Tobin said. “These are agencies and companies whose work could easily intersect with the FBI, particularly as it pursues its intelligence priorities.”

Maryland House Speaker Mike Busch said the state legislature made a “tough decision” several years ago to make sure funding for road improvements would enhance the ability for the FBI to come to Greenbelt, and also carved out $22 million in funding last year for road improvements around the Greenbelt Metro station.

“I understand the benefit to Anne Arundel County, and this benefits the entire state,” Busch said. “This could be 20,000 jobs: 10,000 or 11,000 [for] the FBI, and 9,000 jobs in retail and other affiliated industries. It all enhances our quality of life and promotes our university system, which is world class in itself.”

Virginia has also stepped up its game, offering to improve roads and make other concessions in costs associated with construction at the Springfield site. But what Virginia doesn’t have, Busch said, is an equivalent university system to support the FBI’s needs.

“We believe by the end of the year this is going to come to fruition and we are going to build [in Greenbelt],” he said.

“[Businesses contemplating a move] look at the talent and technical expertise available, and they ask about the quality of life,” said University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret. “We have the talent, we have the expertise, and the quality of life is obvious. This is where the FBI belongs.

“We can provide the ecosystem they need and want,” he said. “Let’s make it happen.”