$875M computer center coming to Fort Meade
By Sara Blumberg | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: March 9, 2013
At Fort George G. Meade, if you want to build an Army Cyber Command and control facility, it will cost $107 million.
Add an additional classroom to the Defense Information School — that’s another $44 million.
If you want a headquarters for the Asymmetric Warfare Group, be prepared to spend $36 million.
If you want a 600,000-square-foot, very safe place to store government information, that will set you back nearly $1 billion. Give or take a hundred million.
With a completion date set for 2015, the National Security Agency is close to starting construction on a new High Performance Computing Center, set to be built on the former golf course at Fort Meade.
With a price tag of nearly $875 million, the center will be the most expensive construction project yet on the Odenton installation. And the money will come. The project is being funded through the National Defense Authorization Act, which means it won’t be impacted by automatic budget cuts affecting some other operations at Fort Meade.
More than half of the allotted money will go into the building itself, ensuring that the information stored there will remain secure, according to details of the project in the Military Construction Project Data report for fiscal 2012. Just the perimeter controls — fences, gates and other exterior security measures — will cost around $21.7 million. Other security features will include:
Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detection systems.
Intrusion detection systems.
Card access control.
A visitor control center.
A cargo vehicle inspection facility.
Ashley Williams, Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman, said the center will be used for “mission critical purposes.” That means protecting national security networks, providing technical assistance to the Department of Homeland Security, providing intelligence and warning regarding cybersecurity threats, she said.
The corps awarded the $564.7 million contract for the building this week to Hensel Phelps/Kiewit Joint Venture, a development and construction partnership based in Chantilly, Va. It will design and construct the building, and it was given $57 million to get the project going.
The rest of the project will be awarded in a later phase.
The NSA wants a building that will be as independent as possible from the surrounding Army post. It will include its own water treatment plant, a 30,000-ton chiller for the cooling system and multiple backup generators.
Alan Susserman, University of Maryland computer science professor, said $875 million for a center of this size is not uncommon. It will require a lot of funding for the infrastructure needed for the computer center and maintenance.
“You have to run the networks, the power and the cooling stations — that can be very expensive,” he said. “Over time the equipment will deteriorate, break and get old. That has to be part of the overall cost.”
Susserman predicted the center would be used for data mining and sorting through large amounts of information with algorithms in search of anything interesting or suspicious.
This isn’t the only new computing center in the county. Maryland-based AiNet recently opened its own data center, CyberNap, at the site of the old Boscov’s at Marley Station in Glen Burnie.
CyberNap CEO Deepak Jain said his company sells information storage space. It has a half-dozen clients now and plans to expand later this year.
“If you send an email, it goes through a data center. The same can be said for credit card transactions and sending emails — it has to be stored somewhere,” he said.
Jain said his clients are divided between commercial businesses and government contractors. At 300,000 square feet, the cost of running CyberNap can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
AiNet chose Marley Station because it has a robust grid of utilities, particularly water and electric. The center can use up to 100 megawatts.
“It’s like saying we have the power to provide power to 100,000 homes,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Towson, said in a statement released by a spokesman that the center is an integral part of national security. The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, he has always supported the project. Congress approved money for it in 2009.
“This is a project that is critical to the core of the NSA mission. It is critically important as NSA protects the future security of our nation,” he said.
If computer power and security aren’t enough though, the NSA also asked for at least one more feature in the project.
Developers are shooting for a LEED Silver, making the building as water, energy and materials efficient as possible.
It will be a high-tech, super-secure, green computer center.