Employment at Fort Meade already booming with much BRAC-related influx still to come

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, September 27, 2010; 3

Maryland is readying for significant job growth at Fort Meade as a result of the Pentagon base realignment and closure effort, but officials there said the military installation has already experienced an influx of workers.

According to Col. Daniel L. Thomas, installation commander at Fort Meade, the base has added 7,000 employees in the past year -- boosting the number of workers on the base from 34,000 to 41,000.

The base realignment effort -- or BRAC, as it is known -- "is only a piece of that," he said. "We have some significant mission growth as well."

Fort Meade is home to both the National Security Agency, which is growing at a fast pace, and the recently established U.S. Cyber Command, as well as many other defense organizations.

As part of BRAC, the Defense Information Systems Agency is in the process of relocating from Arlington to Fort Meade. The agency is moving 4,300 people -- 2,500 government civilians, 1,500 direct contractors and 300 military employees.

As new employees head to Fort Meade, officials said their primary concern remains the base's infrastructure, in particular its transportation networks.

David Bullock, the agency's BRAC executive, said the agency has found that a much larger percentage of DISA employees now intend to keep their jobs and commute to their new offices. Five years ago, when the BRAC move was announced, half of the 2,500 civilians whose jobs are being relocated said they would move with the job. Now, about three-quarters said they intend to do so.

DISA's new complex, a 1.1 million-square-foot facility comprising seven buildings, is 90 percent complete, said Bullock. DISA is set to take ownership of five of the seven in early October and the remaining two will be complete in February.

Also relocating to Fort Meade are the Defense Media Activity, a Pentagon agency that provides news and entertainment to U.S. forces through various forms of media. The agency is slated to move about 650 non-local positions to Fort Meade, according to Roger King, the DMA's executive officer. About 50 more jobs are moving from Northern Virginia.

Defense adjudication entities are relocating about 800 jobs from 13 different locations, said Barbara Campbell, facility manager for defense adjudication. About 60 percent of the jobs are being relocated from Northern Virginia.

J. Michael Hayes, director of military and federal affairs in Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, said the state's BRAC plans are running on time, but that traffic remains a challenge.

"It's clearly an issue and a problem," Hayes said. But for employees, it remains "better to have a bit of a traffic challenge going to a good job than the alternative."

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