D.C. area contractors ramp up cybersecurity offerings

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, October 4, 2010

Local contractors continue to ramp up their cybersecurity offerings -- adding new hires and establishing new offices -- in anticipation of significant growth in the burgeoning market.

The industry activity comes as the Pentagon establishes a Cyber Command.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the National Security Agency and the new U.S. Cyber Command, told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 23 that hiring is under way to find people with the right skills, though final decisions have not been made on the exact mix of military personnel and civilians.

The command "is going to have to grow," Alexander testified. "We see that as our number one mission: be ready. And right now, we have to build that force to get there; that's going to take some time."

Area contractors are moving to align themselves with the government's new priorities. Science Applications International Corp., based in McLean, last week formally opened its seven-story cyber innovation center in Columbia, not far from the site of the new Cyber Command at Fort Meade.

SAIC is no newcomer to cybersecurity, however. The company has had as many as nine different facilities in that area for over a decade, said Larry Cox, an SAIC senior vice president and the general manager of the company's cyber unit.

"Now that there are more opportunities in cyber, more readily identifiable cyber programs and business opportunities, we find ourselves already there," he said.

The company bought online data inspection company CloudShield Technologies of Sunnyvale, Calif., earlier this year and has about 2,500 people working in its cyber unit -- including about 1,500 in the Columbia area.

CSC of Falls Church, meanwhile, announced earlier this month it had hired Mark Rasch, who previously led the Justice Department's efforts to prosecute cyber crime and is a well-known figure in the information security field, to develop and implement a new cybersecurity and privacy consulting practice within the company.

"The strategy is dynamic," Rasch said. "You can't act like there is a correct answer because there isn't."

Like SAIC, CSC already is doing cyber-related work, according to Samuel S. Visner, CSC's vice president and lead executive for cyber.

Despite the growing interest from contractors, they acknowledged that the military's plans for Cyber Command remain in flux.

"I don't think that anybody has a good grasp on it; Cyber Command is too new," Cox said. "It always takes a while for a command to realize itself."

Alastair MacWillson, managing director of Accenture's security practice, said the government cybersecurity industry is still in its early phases.

"We're in the embryonic stage of people saying, 'All right, there are some serious issues out there. What do we do about them?' " he said. "And the answer to that question is not so easy."

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