O'Malley to promote Md. as U.S. cyber security hub

Governor points to proximity of defense contractors, size of state's technology work force

January 12, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes | gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Gov. Martin O'Malley plans to promote Maryland as the "national epicenter" for cyber security innovation and to team with the state's Washington delegation to vie for billions in government spending as the global war on terrorism intensifies efforts to protect computer networks.

State and industry officials said Maryland is better positioned than other areas, such as California's Silicon Valley, to be the premier cyber security hub because major defense agencies are based here already. O'Malley released an assessment of the state's technology industry at the first CyberMaryland summit on Monday.

Federal spending on information security is expected to reach $7.9 billion a year - a lucrative market that big and small companies in Maryland, including Northrop Grumman Corp.'s offices in Linthicum and Oculis Labs in Owings Mills, are eager to tap. Maryland's congressional delegation also plans to use its influence to bring those dollars to Maryland.

"We are at war," U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said. "We are being attacked, and we are being hacked."

Mikulski, the state's senior senator, sits on the intelligence and appropriations committees. She said that she and Rep C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who sits on the appropriations and intelligence committees in the House, are Maryland's "one-two punch" on Capitol Hill. Mikulski also was named recently to a cyber security task force, which will focus on governance, technology development and work force development nationwide.

O'Malley called for the establishment of a "National Center for Excellence for Cyber Security" in Maryland, more education and work force training, and an economic development strategy for cyber security in the state.

The computer design and services sector, which includes cyber security, employs about 60,000 mostly high-paid workers in Maryland, and grew despite the national recession, at a 7.2 percent annual clip through November 2009, state officials said.

"Our federal assets are a big, big part of the reason we are in a better position than most other states in the union to actually get our state economy back on track," O'Malley, a Democrat, told an audience at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg. "We not only think that Maryland can be the national epicenter for cyber security; the fact of the matter is, our state already is the epicenter for our country."

President Barack Obama has made securing the nation's electronic networks a priority, and last month appointed a "czar" to oversee the effort across disparate federal agencies, both military and civilian. Military and law enforcement experts say cyber security is vital in protecting against threats on the battlefield as well as organized-crime activity and identity fraud. Maryland officials said funding for cyber security initiatives in the Department of Homeland Security grew by more than $100 million in Obama's budget request this year.

In Maryland, several federal agencies are a major part of the nation's effort to improve cyber security defenses, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Security Agency, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. The state's also vying to be the home of the Pentagon's joint cyber command, the agency that will oversee cyber security for the Department of Defense.

The state faces a roughly $2 billion budget deficit, and O'Malley's plans did not say how much Maryland might spend on economic development efforts aimed at the cyber security industry. Tax breaks or other financial incentives for companies also were not discussed.

Maryland's congressional delegation talked Monday about cyber security being a priority for the federal government.

Figures released by Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development rank Maryland first in federal research and development spending on a per capita basis, and second in federal research and development investment.

Some of the state's top defense information technology contractors include Lockheed Martin Corp., General Dynamics Corp., and Computer Sciences Corp., according to DBED.

The state has the fifth-highest concentration of information technology jobs in the United States, according to DBED.

Bill Anderson, president of Oculis Labs, said the state might not be able to pour money into supporting cyber security companies, but it can act as a "connector" between businesses and federal agencies.

"Let's set up an environment where we can talk rationally to other businesses and federal agencies," said Anderson, whose company makes software that protects computer screens from eavesdropping. "It's not quite matchmaking, but opportunity-making."

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