SAIC Expected to Announce Headquarters Shift From San Diego to Northern Virginia

[Updated 9/18/09 2:45 pm PT. See below.] SAIC, the secretive defense contractor that was founded in San Diego 40 years ago by nuclear physicist J. Robert Beyster, apparently plans to announce the relocation of its corporate headquarters to Tysons Corner, VA, sometime next week.

The looming announcement from Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was first reported by The Washington Post on its Virginia Politics blog, which cited unnamed “government and business leaders.” The SAIC employee who called it to my attention says “anybody affiliated with corporate [operations] in San Diego is hearing that giant sucking sound.” San Diego’s loss is Virginia’s gain. The Post’s Amy Gardner says the move is expected to bring more than 1,000 “high-paying jobs” to Northern Virginia.

For a company as large as SAIC, relocating the corporate headquarters would likely affect close to 1,000 San Diego employees working in finance, accounting, legal, and other high-level corporate and administrative functions. [Updates with comment from SAIC.] A spokeswoman for SAIC, also known as Science Applications International Corp., responded to my query by email, saying only, “SAIC has not made an announcement about its headquarters.”

The move appears most likely to be announced Monday, when Walt Havenstein takes over as SAIC’s new CEO. Halvenstein, the former head of North American operations for BAE Systems, was named in June to succeed Ken Dahlberg as CEO at the company. Dahlberg, a former General Dynamics executive who succeeded Beyster as CEO in 2003, plans to remain chairman of SAIC’s board of directors.

Dahlberg began shifting many of the company’s high-level functions to Virginia in 2006, when SAIC had about 5,000 employees in San Diego and more than 16,000 at its campus near McLean, VA.

The bulk of SAIC’s workforce has resided in Virginia for decades, because of the company’s focus on providing specialized research and engineering work under contracts for defense and intelligence agencies, as well as energy, health, environment, and other areas. (Because of SAIC’s deep expertise in IT integration and systems support, I think of the company as the systems administrator for the CIA and other intelligence agencies.)

Beyster founded SAIC with a small group of scientists in 1969 to provide contract research services for the government on nuclear weapons and in other fields. The company now has about 45,000 employees in 150 cities worldwide.

SAIC's Virginia Campus

SAIC's Virginia Campus

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Northern Virginia versus San Diego? No contest!

    NOVA is already over-crowded and the quality of life is suffering. If I was on SAIC’s team in San Diego, there would be no way in HELL that I would move back to Virginia.

    By the way, that is where I am now and it sucks!

    The only cool thing about Virginia is its deep historical roots which make it a great place to visit, but for living a good life, give me San Diego, or any part of the California coast.

    By the way, if you don’t mind moving back East, if you can get hired by SAICs California office, you will start out with at least twenty thousand more for entry level employees, than if you had moved to Virginia and were hired by the Virginia office. In Northern Virginia, SAIC already has staff who were hired in Cal working right across from Virginia hires, doing the same work, but the Cal people are getting, on average 20K more per year than the schmucks hired in Virginia.

  • Scott

    Sounds like a pretty big blow to an already battered San Diego Economy.

  • Jb

    DC is hot, hot, hot. California is cold, cold, cold.

    I’d venture to guess many SAIC employees are in foreclosure. Good time to move out and start over in a place with better future.