You are about halfway through your term as garrison commander of Fort Meade. What would you say has been your greatest challenge so far?
Raising Army staff awareness of growth on Fort Meade. The majority of growth on post is from Department of Defense-level Agencies and Activities, and Joint Service Cyber Commands. Shortly after I assumed command, President Obama made the decision to station Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon, Ga.
For these two reasons, in early 2014 the Army was focused solely on the growth of Army CyberCommand at Fort Gordon. So we set about to widen the aperture of awareness and discussion, and by the end of 2014 the Army was addressing its responsibility to resource joint service cyber growth on Army installations, plural, with Fort Meade and Fort Gordon at the top of the list.
In October 2014, we hosted the Army’s first Cyber Installation Support Summit, which brought all four services together for the first time to express their cyber unit growth and associated requirements at Fort Meade and Fort Gordon. By the end of fiscal 2014, Fort Meade had received $57.4 million in restoration and maintenance funding, more than any other Army fort.
We put this funding toward badly needed work on our aging infrastructure, and I attribute this successful effort to the hard work of our garrison staff, our partner commands and the Team Meade community. $57.4 million is a lot of money, but it only cleared out approximately one-third of our backlog in needed work. So, we are continuing the effort in 2015 and will in the years to come.
I also made fixing the roads on Fort Meade a top priority. Restoration and maintenance funds can be used to resurface existing roads, and I used a large portion of our allocation to do that, but not to widen them. It takes military construction dollars allocated by Congress to do that, and thanks to the hard work of our staff, the Army submitted our top two requirements, to widen Reece and Mapes roads and gates to four lanes, to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration during the fiscal 2016 Congressional markup process. So, our needs are now in the hands of Congress and our hard-working Maryland Delegation.
The Army announced its plan for force restructuring, which included a reduction in forces from 490,000 to 450,000. How will those reductions impact Fort Meade?
Fort Meade is an Army installation, but the Army comprises only 13% of the nearly 53,000 total people who work here. We are home to thousands of Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Department of Defense civilians.
The majority of army units stationed here perform unique, one-of-a-kind, national-level intelligence and communication missions, and the need for these type of units is growing. So while the Army as a whole may be shrinking, the cyber-related missions performed by our units here are growing.
We recently held a listening session to hear community reaction to the announcement of troop reductions. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and U.S. Army Military District of Washington, led the listening session, where we discussed how the proposed changes could impact Fort Meade. It was gratifying to see how many community leaders attended the session and how well they understand the vital role Fort Meade plays in our national defense.
While the Army’s force restructuring will result in downsizing at many army installations across the country, the missions and the need for growth here will continue.
Why is there so much growth at Fort Meade when other army posts are shrinking?
Cyberspace is the newest domain of human conflict and competition in the 21st century. We have come to rely on it in every aspect of our daily lives, and it is a domain that knows no geographic boundaries.
Power can be projected through it from a parent’s basement, an organized crime headquarters or a nation state’s military command. All computer and communication systems that operate in this domain are vulnerable and under constant attack by those that seek to compete with, steal from or harm our nation.
Our government understands this threat and tasked the departments of Homeland Security and Defense to lead our national defense in cyberspace. The Department of Defense was specifically tasked to establish a three-star Cyber Command in each of the four armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) and a four-star Joint Command to coordinate effort of all four services. Three of these commands (United States CyberCommand, Marine Forces CyberCommand and Navy Fleet CyberCommand) are stationed here at Fort Meade. Those three commands, along with the National Security Agency and Defense Information Systems Agency, make Fort Meade our military’s senior and primary operational platform for cyber defense.
The need to defend our nation in cyberspace will continue to grow as we move forward in the 21st century, and the units stationed at Fort Meade will continue to be on the front line of defense.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The honor and privilege of serving as the Fort Meade garrison commander has been the best assignment of my military career by far. The mission of our hard-working garrison staff is to support the 117 partner organizations assigned here by providing a safe and secure environment to live and work in.
Our job is to provide high-quality services to each and every servicemember, civilian and family member who lives and works here. If we do our jobs well, we minimize distractions and enable the Fort Meade workforce to fully focus on our national defense.
In conclusion, I must add that Fort Meade owes its success to support from the local Maryland community. From day one, it was clear to me that I didn’t have to explain the strategic importance of Fort Meade to anyone in the state of Maryland.
Our Community Covenant Council and its members are well-known across the Army for developing best-practices in community partnership. We are truly fortunate to be part of the great state of Maryland, and together we, the Team Meade Community, will continue to defend the national security interests of our country in the 21st century and beyond.