Editor’s note: Can cyber unite a metropolis?


Peter W. Singer, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for 21st Center Security and Intelligence, urged Washington’s business leaders to build a brand around cybersecurity. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan)

Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is about as far from Washington as the District is from Washington Dulles International Airport, but the two big cities they serve operate in different orbits. I know this from personal experience, living between the two. In my hometown, we’re divided by sports allegiances (Ravens or Redskins?), television markets and the direction of our daily commutes.

But there’s one plum both towns covet, yet neither have claimed, and it might offer a chance to build the sort of interconnected regional metropolis many have long sought.

Fort Meade, the home of the nation’s new cyber command, shows every sign of becoming the center of cybersecurity in this country. At their annual meeting last week, the leaders of the Greater Washington Board of Trade talked about forging an alliance with their counterparts in Baltimore to see if that potential might become reality. The idea is to create an ecosystem that could supply the region with a reliable source of tech talent, and provide new fuel to the local economy.

Let others make “Angry Birds,” chided Board of Trade chief executive James C. Dinegar. We can own cyber.

The raw material would seem to be there: A government commitment, a highly educated workforce and top-flight universities. But those advantages do not guarantee long-lasting success, warned Peter W. Singer, the Brookings Institution’s director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence.

Singer, who came to discuss his new book “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” reminded the business crowd that Silicon Valley came to dominate technology, even though it was not the birthplace of the computer or the Internet.

He urged business leaders to get to work knitting together the region’s public and private assets and build a brand — much like his own hometown in North Carolina did when it rallied behind the Research Triangle Park, establishing a vibrant biotech community.

Cyber is no passing fad, and it is not a problem that can just be pushed off to the geeks.

“It is a management problem that will never go away,” Singer argued.

That sounds like the sort of challenge capable of keeping an economic engine running a long time.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.

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