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U.S. CyberCommand Brings Big Dividends to Region

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The United States CyberCommand, established in May 2010, was designed to oversee activities tied to the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense (DoD) networks. If necessary, its mission includes the ability to conduct full-spectrum cyberspace operations, ensuring U.S. and Allied freedom of action in cyberspace — while denying that freedom to adversaries.

CyberCommand’s location, at Fort Meade, naturally translates into a benefit for the local area, registered largely in government spending for construction, leases, and the vendors and support contractors who, in turn, contribute to the local tax base. It also serves as a driver for local cybersecurity startup businesses eager to take advantage of its easy proximity.

“The key fact is that CyberCommand continues to raise the profile of this area as a leader in the field of information security,” said Maryland Department of Commerce Director of Cyber Development Ken McCreedy. “The intellectual capital attracted [by Cyber Command] leads to businesses making a decision to locate into this area and tap into that intellectual capital.”

The splash effect carries over into internships and partnership opportunities that benefit the University System of Maryland, Howard Community College and Anne Arundel Community College, said Cybersecurity Association of Maryland Inc. (CAMI) Board Chairman Art Jacoby.

“It’s a magnet that draws students here to study, and local companies don’t have to look very far to find qualified graduates to hire,” he said.

Development Engine

According to Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC) spokeswoman Rosa Cruz, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures showed 714 cyber technology companies in Anne Arundel County during the 2015 calendar year.

Those companies provided jobs for 8,844 employees in the county’s private sector.

During that same time, the BLS tallied 28,500 additional cyber employees working for the public sector within Anne Arundel County.

“CyberCommand is obviously a big driver for business development, especially when you consider The National Business Park (NBP),” McCreedy said. “You see not only large national defense contractors there, like Boeing, Raytheon, Oracle and Booz Allen Hamilton, but you also find smaller local companies, like Bridges Consulting and Praxis. You can see that [CyberCommand’s] influence cuts a broad swath.”

Owned and developed by Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), of Columbia, the 500-acre NBP business community houses a large network of government and contractor businesses serving Fort Meade, NSA and CyberCommand.

It’s hard to isolate data exclusive to CyberCommand, but the latest all-inclusive figures published online in COPT’s March 2017 Baltimore/Washington Corridor Property Tour documented 29 operating properties providing nearly 3.5 million square feet of Class A office space that is 97% leased at asking rents more than $10 per square foot above the local market rate.

As of March 31, two additional NBP properties with a combined 336,000 square feet of space were under construction.

According to the same online document, COPT plans to develop at least 1 million square feet of Class A office space, including two existing projects, within the 300-acre, mixed-use Arundel Preserve community of Arundel Mills.

Those existing projects currently provide 267,000 square feet of Class A office space that is 88% leased to a handful of tenants that include KeyW Corp., a significant player in the cybersecurity domain.

Outlook

In terms of what the developments at NBP and Arundel Preserve mean to the local economy, the construction of one building alone — 7740 Milestone Parkway in Arundel Preserve — resulted in more than $23.5 million in contract work for local construction and trade firms, and more than $30,000 in fees for Anne Arundel County during a 10-year period, according to an online permit history search.

The good news (which, unfortunately, is driven by bad news) is that the potential for cybersecurity industry growth and the associated demand for more operational space are enormous.

“Analytics companies and businesses doing AI (artificial intelligence) and predictive work are making an all-out effort to adapt to the reality of a workforce shortage,” Jacoby said. “The upside is that the outlook for Maryland jobs in cyber has never looked brighter, but it’s tied to the sad fact that globally, collectively, we are losing ground to adversaries who want to do damage and profit from our losses.”

As Jacoby noted, workers in the cybersecurity world follow the movement of organizations like CyberCommand; and as McCreedy added, the commercial real estate market follows suit.

“At the moment the federal government is making significant investments in cybersecurity that should translate to more opportunity for Maryland, in general, and areas surrounding Fort Meade in particular,” McCreedy said.
Additionally, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order on cybersecurity, calling for a number of reports and studies during a relatively short period of time that, hopefully, will lead to increased startup and training activity and incentives.

“The heat has definitely been turned up to develop a programmatic approach to deal with the cyberthreat,” McCreedy said. “As a result, more vendors and contractors will be drawn here to continue fueling the activity in and around Fort Meade.”

Elevated Status?

A 2015 economic development case study on NBP prepared by Cole Greene of the University of Maryland Urban Studies and Planning Program appropriately ascribes its success in employment and employment growth to government-induced demand.

However, it suggests that the “seclusion and secrecy associated with [NBP] hampers the potential for knowledge spillover effects throughout the region.”
To ensure readiness for sustained success, the case study recommends continued government and educational institution coordination with both public and private leaders in cybersecurity; zoning changes and infrastructure improvements by local jurisdictions to meet the security and facility needs of private firms; and the influence of economic development organizations to encourage commercialization of cybersecurity technologies originally developed for the public sector.

“Diversifying the customer market will ensure the continued growth of the industry locally,” Greene said.

Even without an overarching, orchestrated strategy, “anybody will concur that economic activity is brisk,” Jacoby said. “In my day job, I’m in discussion with international and West Coast companies that want to be here, and there are more of them than ever before.”

Likewise, he said, “we’re seeing more and more workforce development programs, as everybody is trying to figure out how we solve this problem and help people learn entry-level skills so that [veteran cybersecurity specialists] can be doing more sophisticated stuff.”

As an armed forces sub-unified command subordinate to the United States Strategic Command, the U.S. CyberCommand stands to gain stature and muscle should the Trump administration decide to elevate the organization to a full-fledged combatant command, tasked with creating its own training and force development programs.

“If and when that happens, we can expect to see additional resources and budget appropriations coming to CyberCommand,” McCreedy said; and in turn, increasingly positive economic impact implications for the BWI Business District, Anne Arundel County, surrounding jurisdictions and Maryland.