National Security Agency leases Texas plant for expansion project

Plan calls for adding 6,000 employees by 2008

April 16, 2005|By William Wan and Melissa Harris | William Wan and Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

Making room for a wave of new hires, the National Security Agency has leased a former Sony computer chip plant in San Antonio from a Maryland real estate company, the agency said yesterday.

Some Maryland employees will be affected by the expansion in Texas, the NSA said, because a core group of experienced analysts at the agency's Fort Meade headquarters will be transferred to train the new ones in San Antonio. Employees will not be moved over their objections or laid off as a result, officials says.

Like the CIA, FBI and the nation's other intelligence agencies, the NSA -- one of Maryland's largest employers -- has been developing plans to grow and transform since the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent national focus on global terrorism.

Helped in part by recent funding increases from Congress, the expansion in San Antonio is part of the agency's four-year plan to add 6,000 new employees, many of them language and intelligence analysts, the NSA said.

The agency's expansion plans calls for adding 1,500 employees every year starting from last year until 2008. The agency, which employs more than 30,000 people worldwide, said it is planning a career fair in San Antonio on May 4.

For Corporate Office Properties Trust -- the Maryland real estate investment company that bought the former Sony building and is adapting it to the agency -- the deal with NSA in San Antonio marks the beginning of its own plans for expansion.

"It's quite an accomplishment," said the company's president and CEO, Randall Griffin. "It's the beginning of our multi-city, multilocational expansion strategy."

The Columbia-based company has long provided office space for the U.S. government. Its holdings include a site next to Fort Meade called the National Business Park, which is packed with NSA contractors.

"We have become increasingly reliant on intelligence and defense tenants, particularly due to the increased activity in those sectors following the events of September 11, 2001," the company noted in its annual disclosure to securities regulators.

Officially, the real estate investment company leased the San Antonio site to the Army Corps of Engineers, which handles such real estate deals for the U.S. government's intelligence community. Corporate Office Properties Trust has 30 other leases with the corps.

The company bought the San Antonio site for $30.5 million two weeks ago. The former Sony plant consists of two connected buildings with office and research and development space totaling 470,000 square feet.

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