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Is region ready for a cybersecurity corridor?

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By Marjorie Censer
Monday, May 10, 2010

Telecommunications companies and government contractors dominate the Dulles Toll Road corridor in Virginia, and biotechnology firms line the corridor along Interstate 270 in Maryland.

What's next? Walter P. Havenstein, chief executive of SAIC, predicts it could be a cybersecurity corridor along the Interstate 95 corridor between Washington and Baltimore.

The government is doing its part by relocating the Defense Information Systems Agency from Falls Church to Fort Meade, Md. and establishing U.S. Cyber Command and the Navy's U.S. Fleet Cyber Command at Fort Meade. The base, just south of Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, is already home to the National Security Agency.

The southern anchor could be the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters going up in southeast Washington. In between, sits NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, off the Baltimore Washington Parkway, and the University of Maryland's College Park campus.

Will industry follow suit? More than a dozen companies with locations near Fort Meade have indicated they are expanding cyber practices, according to the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

Robert Hannon, president of the economic development office, said the county is also seeing real estate respond to anticipated demand.

"If you look at the major business areas around Fort Meade, you'll see five, six, seven major real estate projects that are doing the groundwork for making the land available and starting building," he said. "There clearly is a spike here."

Hannon argued a corridor--albeit one focused on signals intelligence and information technologies--is already in place. Cybersecurity, he said, will simply be an added initiative.

"It's already here," Hannon said. "There already is a concentration, and that concentration is growing as we speak."

George Vradenburg, a former AOL Time Warner executive, is one of the founders of the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative, an organization chaired by the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the D.C. mayor to promote innovation within the region.

He said the demand for cybersecurity reaches far beyond the military into areas like health care and financial infrastructure, so creating a true cybersecurity cluster will mean drawing companies that work in other sectors.

"Every business in America and virtually every person in America who communicates via the Internet needs the benefit of stronger cybersecurity techniques," he said.

Attracting major companies to the corridor will depend on the investment Maryland makes and the readiness of the military to assist, according to Vradenburg.

"This depends in part on the willingness of the military to spend some time on thinking about what it is they really need to hold close . . . [and] what it is that can be developed and released to the private sector," he said.

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