Seeking to capitalize on the growth of cybersecurity, Washington and Baltimore officials have teamed up to tackle some of the most pressing issues, from providing an adequate workforce to making sure businesses have enough funding to get started.
“We think that [cybersecurity] is the linchpin between Baltimore and Washington,” said Jim Dinegar, president and chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, one of the three economic organizations funding a new task force. (The others are the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore). “There’s going to be a lot more cooperation” between the two cities.
The area surrounding Fort Meade, which is home to the National Security Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the relatively new U.S. Cyber Command, has rapidly become something of a cybersecurity headquarters.
Contractors from General Dynamics to Science Applications International Corp. have opened nearby cyber centers in recent years.
Maryland has made a statewide pitch on cybersecurity — the governor at one point issued a report called CyberMaryland — but Dinegar said it makes more sense to take a collaborative approach.
As a group, the three organizations “have the muscle and the wherewithal and the funding to be able to reach outside of this region.”
The trio have hired Robert Hannon, who previously led Anne Arundel County Economic Development, to head the Baltimore-Washington Cyber Task Force, which will have four subcommittees: education and workforce, economic development, content and finance.
William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, is to lead the education and workforce committee, which will consider how to retain students of local universities.
“A lot of people graduate in this area and go to Silicon Valley,” Dinegar said. “We’d like to keep them here.”
The group’s challenges will include transportation for workers, which might, for instance, encourage younger workers to live in Baltimore and still take a job at Fort Meade.
The economic development subcommittee will be led by Candy Duncan of KPMG and will consider how to nurture and recruit cybersecurity companies, particularly from areas like Silicon Valley.
The third, headed by Robert Morgan, co-founder of MorganFranklin Consulting, will focus on what the group is calling cyber content, meaning getting a sense of the market. This might include tracking emerging areas and creating an inventory of the companies already here.
The finance subcommittee, which does not yet have a leader, will zero in on the funding environment for cybersecurity companies.
Hannon, who has been hired for a six-month contract, said he’ll draw on his experience working in the Fort Meade area.
He said he will gather information, put together a timeline and plan a program. The initial period “is really just the beginning point,” he said.