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30 March 2007

The IC in the context of the Washington Metro area

It is no secret that the concentration of intelligence community related activities in the greater Washington Metropolitan area has been a topic of much discussion among community luminaries. A greater volume of unrecorded conversation occurs at the individual level, as the vast workforce each attempts in their own way to come to terms with what it means to attempt to have a life while being essentially tied to an intensely urbanizing, highly expensive geography due to the combination of opportunity clusters, security requirements, educational / professional development accesses, and the need for resilience in the face of ever shifting government mandates and priorities (and related impact on contractor market segments.)

One commentator recently noted that the “local commuting area” for the community now stretches from Aberdeen, Maryland to Charlottesville, Virginia. It is no small matter that along this linear distance of 180+ miles lies what is among the densest, most difficult traffic in the nation; along with what are among the highest property costs and other cost of living factors.

But for as difficult as it is today, worse is coming. A fascinating recent paper by an Arlington County urban planner has presented data and analysis concluding that “by 2030, the entire built environment in the Greater Washington, D.C. region will need to be nearly replicated by a like amount of new construction.”

The factors driving the growth, density, “stickiness”, and “spikiness” of the region are complex and not entirely proven, although fascinating to examine both in the domestic context and in the potential application to foreign targets. However, there is little doubt that these factors are at play in the serious issues of recruiting, retention, and workforce satisfaction / productivity within the community.

The future history of the Long War will no doubt leave much room for interpretations of the impact of these factors on the community. However, it is unlikely that this tyranny of geography will change in any meaningful way - even with the emergence of efforts to build usable distributed collaborative capabilities in the Parallel World, or in the face of the serious critical infrastructure issues created by the centralization of so much of the community in the area.

The question rather becomes one of coping strategies, and of the level of pain that those serving over the course of the next fifteen years will have to endure; especially for the juniors as the SES’s and other seniors continue to enjoy the lifestyle benefits of having been in the area before such a dramatic expansion.

h/t Creativity Exchange for the urban planning and attraction elements; and to Haft of the Spear for excellent examples and analysis of related current community developments culled from open sources

Update: The most relevant link for Haft of the Spear's discussion of IC quality of life and reform has been graciously pointed out. As always, the piece is far better phrased than we can offer...

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