During a recent briefing for the Anne Arundel County delegation in Annapolis, members of the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council joined Garrison Commander Brian Foley to talk about the fort as well as its business impact, transportation needs, related education needs and the unique challenges of the state’s largest employer.
The mission of the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council (FMCCC) is to identify installation needs, address requirements and attempt to find resource solutions by combining on- and off-post resources, creating efficiencies and streamlining processes. The group is composed of representatives of federal, state and local government agencies, local businesses and industry leaders. The current chair is Linda Greene, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership.
“We all share the same interest in promoting Fort Meade and, through the council, we now have a body to work together to address the needs of Fort Meade,” said Greene.
In this instance, at the legislature, the council reinforced Foley’s message about the growth of the installation, its impact and its needs. Federal, state and local elected officials, business groups, state and local organizations and businesses are all members of the council.
During the Feb. 6 briefing, Foley; Greene; Claire Louder, president and CEO of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce; and Deon Viergutz, president of the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA), hosted a panel discussion about the fort, ongoing initiatives and plans. In attendance were state delegates and senators from Anne Arundel County, including Speaker of the House Michael Busch. A number of Community Covenant Council members were in attendance as well.
“Fort Meade is our nation’s primary power projection platform for joint service cyber operations,” said Foley. “It’s home to five of the top seven Department of Defense cybercommands: the U.S. CyberCommand, the National Security Agency, the Defense Information and Systems Agency, the Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command and the U.S. Fleet CyberCommand.
During the next five years the fort expects to gain an additional 2,000 employees. The cybermission and the fort is still growing, he said.
Following Foley’s remarks, Louder discussed the post’s economic impact. “It’s important to understand there is $20 billion worth of impacts outside the gate,” she said. “There are 20,000 people that live and pay taxes in our community [associated with Fort Meade], and these individuals earn about $100,000 in individual income.”
Louder went on to say that, during the past 12 years, there has been $1.8 billion in construction spending directly tied to the fort. However, she pointed out there are still significant challenges, such as the need to expand the parking garage at the Odenton’s MARC train station to ease transportation hurdles for commuters.
“Funding for roadways around the installation should be a priority,” she said.
Louder organized the briefing with Anne Arundel Delegation Chair Pam Beidle, both seeking to ensure the message of Fort Meade’s requirements was understood by delegates and senators in Annapolis during the General Assembly session.
“There are 117 tenant agencies at Fort Meade now. Before BRAC [the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure], just 10 years ago, there were 75,” said Greene. “Of those agencies, only three were reassigned to Fort Meade. The others chose to come to Fort Meade and Maryland. It’s a growing installation, a state asset, and we need to see it as just that.”
Comparing the transit network at the Pentagon to Fort Meade, Greene noted that although Fort Meade has double the employees, it benefits from few transit connections. She called for a comprehensive look at transportation around Fort Meade to serve its daily workforce and its many visitors.
Noting a recent success, she said cooperation between members of the FMCCC and state and federal government was an essential element in landing a grant to support the fort and the community, with a $10 million Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant. The Maryland State Highway Administration received the TIGER grant from the Department of Transportation to upgrade a key portion of Route 175 from a two-lane highway to a six-lane highway.
Deon Viergutz, chairman of the FMA, was the final panel participant, emphasizing workforce needs and the need to ensure educational institutions and training networks are fully engaged in preparing students for the jobs created by Fort Meade. He cited several of the key initiatives the alliance has undertaken to make students aware of the challenges of gaining security clearances, a key to any Fort Meade job or with the many contractors who are located in Maryland and do business with Fort Meade and NSA.