Realignment, Closure Plan Continues on Track
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., Aug. 12, 2010 It’s “all systems go” here as this Army Installation prepares to receive three new organizations and about 5,700 of their employees as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission plan.
A sprawling new building under construction at Fort Meade, Md., will accommodate almost 4,300 Defense Information Systems Agency employees to relocate no later than September 2011 under the Base Realignment and Closure Commission mandate. DoD photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Fort Meade is among hundreds of major focal points in implementing the most sweeping BRAC initiatives ever undertaken – requiring twice the number of actions as the previous four BRAC rounds since 1988 combined.
The plan, which took effect in November 2005, affects more than 800 military installations. It involves closing some, consolidating or realigning others, and ultimately relocating some 123,000 military members and civilian employees.
By law, all these actions must be completed by Sept. 15, 2011.
Despite the magnitude of the effort, Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, expressed confidence during congressional testimony in March that the department will meet the deadline.
“We are on a tight deadline,” she told a House Appropriations subcommittee. However, 28 BRAC recommendations already had been implemented, she reported, and “all others are on track for completion by the statutory deadline.”
About 30 of the required BRAC actions involve construction projects scheduled for completion within 90 days of the deadline, she said.
Robyn offered assurance that the department will do everything possible to meet its BRAC mandate.
“In four previous rounds, the department has never missed a BRAC deadline, and we will make every effort to preserve our perfect record,” she said.
With just over 13 months left before the deadline, evidence of BRAC-related activity – some large-scale, some less so -- is ever-present throughout the department.
Here, for example, construction crews are putting the finishing touches on millions of square feet of buildings that will accommodate three new tenants: the Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Media Activity and Defense Adjudication Activity.
Altogether, the move will bring about 5,700 new employees, almost 90 percent of them civilians, to the post.
Bert Rice, director of Fort Meade’s transformation office, credits good planning and cooperation among the garrison, the incoming agencies and local and state governments with helping to ensure the move proceeds smoothly and on time.
“You have to really plan for these things and develop those relationships with agencies coming in so you are pulling the wagon rather than having some pulling and some pushing and some going the other direction,” he said.
Meanwhile, eight local jurisdictions formed a task force to address potential problems associated with the post’s growth: housing shortages, overcrowded schools and clogged highways, among them.
“They’ve worked hard on these issues,” Rice said. “They understand the numbers, and although they probably are not ready yet, they are working toward being able to accommodate this influx.”
Recognizing that traffic congestion is expected to be one of the biggest headaches associated with the move, Fort Meade and local officials have worked closely with the Maryland Transportation Authority to improve the roadways and provide more frequent stops at the nearby commuter train station.
Under an agreement with the National Security Agency, the largest Fort Meade tenant organization, Fort Meade employees will be able to ride an NSA-funded shuttle bus between the train station and the post, Rice said. Meanwhile, the installation is focused on improving access gates and its internal road network, while also encouraging more carpooling and telecommuting.
While these issues get worked out, a massive construction effort continues. The largest project, to accommodate almost 4,300 DISA employees, is “right on schedule” with 90 percent completed, Rice said.
DISA’s advance party already has begun arriving at Fort Meade, he reported, with about 200 currently working in temporary offices and another 100 or so to arrive within the next several weeks to facilitate the move. The bigger, phased-in move for the rest of the employees will begin in January, with an additional 150 to 200 arriving at Fort Meade each week.
“That should finish by the July timeframe, no later than August,” Rice said. “They’ll all be there, moved in and able to perform their functions in advance of 15 September.”
Meanwhile, initial members of the Defense Media Activity are expected to begin arriving in November. As construction crews wrap up work on their new building, currently ahead of schedule at 65 percent completed, DMA’s advanced team will prepare it to receive about 663 employees.
Like DISA, DMA is planning a phased-in move, and most of its employees are expected to arrive at Fort Meade between March and June, Rice said.
Across post, the new Defense Military Adjudication Activity building is slightly ahead of schedule, at 64 percent completed.
Unlike DISA and DMA, both consolidating operations at Fort Meade, the Defense Military Adjudication Activity is a collocation that will bring together 10 separate activities in a single building, Rice explained. Their collective 760 employees are on schedule to move to Fort Meade before the Sept. 15 mandate.
While Fort Meade makes final preparations for a big growth spurt, other installations around the country are busy conducting their own BRAC-related activities in the crunch time leading to September 2011.
For example, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is undergoing its largest construction project since World War II to prepare for the arrival of aerospace medicine and sensors research programs from other installations.
But for every installation experiencing growth under BRAC 2005, there’s at least one seeing scaled-down operations or closure.
The Air Force officially closed Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., July 28, moving the 21st Space Operations Squadron that had inhabited it to Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. To continue honoring the late Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka, the Air Force astronaut killed during the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, the 21st named its new home the Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility.
Fort Monmouth, N.J., also slated to close under BRAC 2005, recently hosted a three-day “Last Hoo-Ah” party before shuttering the 94-year-old installation and transferring its operations to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
The Athens, Ga., community recently announced a “57-day salute,” a series of commemorative events to run 57 days beginning Aug. 29 and continuing until the last class of cadets graduates from the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School. The school is being consolidated in Newport, R.I., with its property in Athens to be transferred to the University of Georgia.
While base closures are melancholy events to many, for some they represent a new opportunity to put former military real estate to new use.
Atlanta city officials, for example, are chomping at the bit as they make plans for 488 acres of historic land it will receive when Fort McPherson closes by September 2011. Among possible uses for the site is a pedestrian-friendly development that integrates living and recreational facilities while providing an employment center for bioscience and green industries.