Politicians say Maryland is ripe for cybersecurity industry

O'Malley says Maryland is poised to revive its economy.
O'Malley says Maryland is poised to revive its economy. (Jamie C. Horton - Associated Press)
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By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Monday, Democratic members of Maryland's congressional delegation and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) launched perhaps the most coordinated effort since their party took control of the White House to harness a stream of federal funding and a growing job sector, billing Maryland as the logical destination for thousands of new cybersecurity posts.

California, Texas, Massachusetts and other states have concentrations of high-tech security workers, but, O'Malley said, "we not only think that Maryland can be the national center for cybersecurity; the fact of the matter is our state already is the epicenter of cybersecurity."

The governor appeared with Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin and Reps. Chris Van Hollen and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, all Maryland Democrats, at the Gaithersburg headquarters of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

They said that since the National Security Agency -- as well as high-tech defense and intelligence installations -- are based in the state, Maryland should become the home of the fledgling U.S. Cyber Command, which could bring 24,000 to 28,000 jobs.

Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the NSA, has been tapped to lead the command. If he is confirmed by the Senate, he has indicated that the post would be at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.

The Maryland delegation said that designation would launch a legitimate push to make the state the country's "Silicon Valley of cybersecurity" and that they would seek tax breaks and other incentives to lure spin-off businesses to the area.

The effort might present the best chance in years for Maryland's congressional delegation to capitalize on a growing list of leadership posts: Mikulski is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Cardin is chairman of the Senate Judiciary's terrorism and homeland security committee, and Ruppersberger is chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on cybersecurity.

"We're really positioned extremely well with 'team Maryland,' " Ruppersberger said. "We've also got [House Majority Leader Steny H.] Hoyer [D-Md.] -- he's a leader, and we even tell [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.], we remind her every day, that she grew up in Baltimore and is a Marylander."

O'Malley said that the state's proximity to Washington helps the effort, which he said could help secure Maryland's future, both in the long term and in helping to pull out of the recession.

"Our federal assets are a big, big part of why we're in a better position than most other states in the union to actually get our state economy back on track and lead the rest of our nation into a new era of prosperity," he said.

Alan Paller, director of the SANS Institute, an education and training organization for cybersecurity, said that although California might dwarf Maryland in the number of people with advanced computing skills, Maryland has a clear edge in cybersecurity.

"The number of people with the deep technological knowledge of security and vulnerabilities who can create and test tools to improve is much greater here," he said.

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