Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold plans to introduce legislation to the County Council this week that would authorize funding for the expansion of the Cyber Center at Anne Arundel Community College.
The bill, which will be presented to the council Tuesday night, authorizes the community college to use $1.1 million of its fund balance from the fiscal year 2010 budget for the program's expansion. The county will reimburse the college by floating bonds in the 2012 fiscal year.
With the expansion of Fort Meade, the county is planning for an influx of defense and cybersecurity-related jobs. The BRAC relocation to Fort Meade is expected to bring about 20,000 jobs. The U.S. Cyber Command, the military's effort to defend against and to mount cyberattacks, will also be based at Fort Meade.
"They desperately need a new cyberlab," said Leopold, a Republican. "Anne Arundel County is now the epicenter of cybersecurity in this country. The demand is great for highly trained workers. These jobs are there. It would be short-sighted not to provide the necessary infrastructure support to protect our nation's security and bring jobs to the county."
Earlier this year, Leopold sought $2 million in funding for the lab in the fiscal year 2011 capital budget, but the proposal was rejected as the council dealt with a tight budget during the current economic downturn. Leopold said he wants to try again.
C. Edward Middlebrooks, chairman of the council, said he supports the bill after hearing about the college's increased enrollment and the demand for more capacity for the center, and thinks other members of the council will sign on.
"I think we're going to have to let them continue forward with the project this time," said Middlebrooks. "I think it will be a good addition to the community college."
Enrollment for the cybercenter has increased since the program began five years ago — by 324 percent, college officials said. The college currently has two cyberlabs and estimates it needs about six to satisfy demand.
"We appreciate the county executive's support," said Linda Schulte, a spokeswoman for the college. "It's critically needed. The funds will help us bring the cyberlabs into fruition. We need more and we need them faster in order to train the number of skilled workers the county and the state needs."
In July, the federal government awarded a $4.9 million grant to the county in hopes of building a work force trained in cybersecurity for a new command at Fort Meade. Leopold said much of that funding, which was shared with a consortium of Central Maryland workforce investment boards and community colleges in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties and Baltimore City, went to operating costs for the lab.
As demand grows for the program at Anne Arundel, Schulte said, school officials must keep up-to-date with the ever-changing dynamics of cybersecurity.
"Every year we have to bring it up to speed and build the curriculum to keep us current," said Schulte.