Montgomery, Maryland and feds sign agreement for cybersecurity center

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) joined state and federal officials in Annapolis to sign an agreement Tuesday to establish a center for civil cybersecurity in Rockville.

The agreement follows up on a 2012 memorandum of understanding among Montgomery County, Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create a “National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.”

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Officials said it is intended to be a place where private businesses, academics and government can work on ways to prevent hacking incidents such as the breach of credit card information at Target and Nieman Marcus last year. The county also hopes it will stimulate creation of new high-paying jobs in the cybersecurity sector.

The venture is financed primarily with $35 million in appropriations secured by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who joined Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Leggett at the announcement.

“This partnership agreement clearly signifies Montgomery County as the hub of civil cybersecurity in the nation,” said Leggett.

The county plans to house the new center along I-270 in what is now the William Hanna Center for Innovation, a bio-tech incubator operated by the county that houses about three dozen start-up firms. The plan has sparked bitter protests from many of the firms, which say they are being pushed out with no suitable options for other quarters. County officials said they are working with the firms to find other facilities.

Their charges have drawn support from former county executive Doug Duncan, whose administration opened the Hanna Center in 1999, and County Council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg). They contend that the county is retreating from a historic commitment to the life sciences. Both are challenging Leggett, who is seeking reelection as county executive, in a Democratic primary in June.

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