Switch of C4ISR conference venue to Baltimore reflects BRAC-related shift of work to Maryland

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, August 30, 2010

Farewell, Atlantic City, and hello, Baltimore.

The annual Team C4ISR Symposium and Expo -- a conference focused on military electronics and intelligence -- relocated this year from its usual digs at the New Jersey shore to the Baltimore Convention Center, reflecting the imminent arrival of the Army's communications and electronics hub at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Northeast Maryland and at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia.

As part of a larger Pentagon base relocation process, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is closing and sending more than 7,300 jobs -- including nearly 1,800 contractor positions -- to Aberdeen. Another 270 Fort Monmouth jobs are headed to Fort Belvoir. The New Jersey base has to be closed and the Maryland and Virginia operations fully up and running by September of next year.

For local companies, the move represents a potential opportunity and the conference a chance to start making some connections.

Steven P. Murphy of Annapolis Junction-based Praxis Engineering, a software and systems engineering firm, said his company is taking a close look at the work available at Aberdeen and Fort Meade and trying to meet as many people as possible in hopes of expanding its footprint.

For the type of engineering work the company performs, he said: "You need to be local."

Even New Jersey-based companies agree. James Peter Hughes, senior director at Eatontown, N.J.'s MacB Enterprise Solutions, said the engineering services company has already opened a Bel Air office and moved many of its employees to Maryland.

Most of the firm's employees work alongside government employees in program management offices, and Hughes said MacB intends to hold onto the jobs it has and potentially expand.

"We're doing anything we can," he said.

However, many contractors at the conference said manufacturing -- unlike software or engineering services -- is a business in which location is irrelevant. Christopher A. Ober, who handles marketing for antenna maker ARA in Beltsville, said he expects the base relocation to have little impact on his company's work.

Even so, ARA was exhibiting at the C4ISR symposium for the first time (C4ISR stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance). The company hadn't previously bought a booth at the Atlantic City show, Ober said.

Lisa A. Swoboda, deputy director of the Office of Military & Federal Affairs at Maryland's business development office, stressed that the conference marks an opportunity for Maryland businesses -- and potentially a sea change for the state's place within the military communications world. She said a much larger military communications conference is slated for 2011 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

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