The objective of the Base Realignment and Closure legislation was to close excess military installation inventory and realign operations to gain efficiencies across the Department of Defense; but what that means when executed at each locality differs dramatically. For some, like Walter Reed Medical Center, it is the finality of closure. But for others, like our home, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and others, it is growth. And even this growth has its distinctive flavor that differs from installation to installation.
When I took command the summer of 2008, BRAC construction was about to begin. As I close my tour as commander, the construction of three brand new facilities that will house three DoD activities is, for all practical purposes, complete and the federal workers are now occupying their offices. A nice, neat set of bookends that only tells part of the story …
First, the well known and obvious. Our new partners on Fort Meade are the Defense Media Activity, which directs DoD Media operations; Defense Adjudications, where the lion’s share of security clearance adjudications for the DoD will be conducted; and the Defense Information Systems Agency, which organizes, manages and protects our IT operations. All three are occupying brand new buildings. The combined workforce for these new neighbors is about 5,400, most of them civilian.
What may be lesser known is the difficulty of the commands involved to relocate their personnel and operations smoothly to a new home and the efforts by the base and the local community to receive them. I could write a tome about the herculean efforts that took place on all fronts to accomplish this but I obviously cannot here. What is most important is this – our new tenants, DISA, the Defense Media Activity and the Defense Adjudication Activities are already valued members of the Fort Meade community.
Along with the other 90 different organizations that call Fort Meade home, we welcome them as new neighbors. This does not happen without great, professional people from the organizations moving, the base support structure, the local government, and strong local community. These conditions don’t exist everywhere but here they did. Because of this, Fort Meade’s BRAC is nearing completion; well, at least the most visible signs of the BRAC effort … more work is to be done.
Fort Meade is looking beyond BRAC to an even greater amount of growth in our future. By this fall, the official worker population of Fort Meade will have grown to more than 48,000. This is 13,000 more personnel than we had three years ago – you do the math: if BRAC growth is 5,400, who are all these other people? Well, the mission of many of the other mission units on Fort Meade has grown and is growing. Additionally, the establishment of Fort Meade as the home of U.S. Cyber Command means that this installation will see even more growth. U.S. Cyber Command, to include Army Cyber, Air Force Cyber, the Tenth Fleet Navy Cyber and Marine Corps Cyber Commands, will bring additional highly technical jobs to this installation.
As you can imagine, these additional jobs mean added stress on our infrastructure, from our electrical grid to the roads, intersections and control access points into the installation. This growth will also put more demands on the roads that surround the installation. The good news is we have learned a great deal through the BRAC process as we partnered with local, county, state and federal elected officials and agencies to prepare and coordinate resources for change. We established a BRAC office, which has now been upgraded to a Transformation Directorate, with the sole purpose of spearheading our efforts to ensure we are fully prepared for the growth we expect in the coming years.
Specific efforts include:
Our commercial partnerships with Baltimore Gas &Electric (BG&E) and American Water which will ensure we have the power capacity, as well as the water and waste water infrastructure necessary to support the incoming organizations.
Picerne Housing to ensure we have quality residences for our people.
Our Transportation Demand Management plan is aimed at decreasing single occupancy vehicles on the installation. By encouraging carpooling, vanpooling, shuttle services, mass transportation, telework and compressed work schedules, we hope to decrease the number of single occupancy vehicles coming onto the installation by 26 percent. We have already established a High Occupancy Vehicle gate to encourage the use of multi-occupancy vehicles.
We are working diligently to expand roads and improve intersections within the installation and assist the local community with efforts to expand the roads outside the installation as well.
In terms of BRAC, the buildings are done, the moves have already started and we have welcomed our new tenant partners into the Fort Meade family. We now look to the future toward the new challenge of preparing for continuing change the future will bring. As a result of the partnerships we have formed with area business leaders, our local, state and federal elected officials and our coordination with state and federal agencies, I have no doubt we will all be successful.
Col. Thomas wrote this column as part of a week-long Federal News Radio and WTOP in-depth series, BRAC Impact.