Governors pushing for local drone test site

December 2, 2012

The governors of Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia are partnering in an effort to establish a Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site for unmanned aerial systems in the region.

The drone business has garnered attention in recent years as the Pentagon has increased its buying and commercial interest grows.

The Mid-Atlantic Unmanned Aerial Systems Coalition, backed by the three state leaders, is hoping that an FAA designation could make the region a focal point for contractors and start-ups alike.

“There are the manufacturing folks who want to build these systems ... the Lockheeds and the Boeings that make the very large systems,” said Matt Scassero, who heads the coalition. “The other end is small companies, down to one-man garage shops that have very specific unique technologies.”

The FAA is set to select six unmanned system test sites.

Mike Hayes, program director of Maryland’s Office of Military Affairs, said the state is hoping to model its drone-related push on its cybersecurity efforts. The state has encouraged companies to settle near Fort Meade — home to the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.

“We think this will move more slowly,” he said of unmanned systems, “but we think the model is appropriate.”

EADS settled in Herndon

After relocating near Dulles Airport, EADS North America lost fewer than 10 employees, said Sean O’Keefe, the company’s chief executive, in an interview last month.

About a year after its move out of Rosslyn, O’Keefe said the new location is working out.

“Very few of our colleagues really need to do up close and personal business face-to-face with a lot of folks downtown,” he said. “And oh by the way, the cost per square foot is half.”

Following the collapse of a potential merger between EADS’s parent company and defense contractor BAE Systems, O’Keefe said the North American unit is going through a strategic review.

Still he denied that calling off the deal was a setback for EADS’ U.S. business.

“We’re already established here, we’re already actively engaged in the markets we’re in and we’ve seen a significant growth over the last several years,” he said.

SAP starts veteran training effort

SAP said last week it has started a program to train military veterans on SAP software and platforms to produce certified employees for its partners and customers.

The program started last week in Texas, and SAP plans to train and certify 1,000 veterans within the next 12 months. The next class may be in Virginia, said Robert Cresanti, who handles government affairs for SAP, at a roll-out event at SAP’s District office.

The initiative is not targeted at producing potential employees for SAP but instead at providing qualified veteran employees for SAP users and teammates, such as Accenture and Deloitte, according to Diane Fanelli, a senior vice president at SAP.

SAP is teaming with a technology staffing agency to help place the veteran graduates in jobs. The company is spending $1.5 million for the first year of the effort and hopes to eventually tie it into the GI Bill for reimbursement, Fanelli said.

GAO denies A&T protest

The Government Accountability Office last month denied a protest filed by Silver Spring-based A&T Systems against an Army task order won by Chantilly-based American Systems.

A&T, the incumbent on the program to provide telecommunication and engineering support services, contended that American Systems’ proposal did not provide enough staff to perform the work and its price was too low.

In its decision, the GAO wrote that “the protester’s disagreement with the agency’s judgment does not establish that the agency acted unreasonably.”

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