The Fort Meade community learned about the Army’s ongoing force restructuring efforts during an Army Force Structure & Stationing Listening Session held in late March at the Fort Meade McGill Training Center.

The two-hour event also was an opportunity for community members to ask questions in regard to the Army’s decision-making process and comment on the importance of the installation to the community.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and U.S. Army Military District of Washington, led the listening session. He was joined by Col. Karl Konzelman, chief of the Army Force Management Division, G3/5/7 at Headquarters, Department of the Army, and Col. Brian Foley, garrison commander at Fort Meade.

“It should be no surprise to you that the Army is undergoing some significant force-structure changes,” Buchanan said.

Troop Reduction

Buchanan said that by the end of the fiscal year in October, the Army’s active-duty component will be 490,000 — down from a high of 572,000 a few years ago.

“What we have not determined is how we’re going to go on the active side of the Army, from 490,000 to 450,000. And that’s what these sessions are all about,” Buchanan said.

The reduction in the Army’s active end strength is driven by the 2011 Budget Control Act and the 2012 Defense Guidance. Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno will make the decisions regarding force structure changes by early summer.

Buchanan said the input from listening sessions at Army installations worldwide, in addition to discussions with congressional and Army leaders, will help McHugh and Odierno arrive at their decisions. Konzelman then discussed the Army’s ongoing actions to meet its goals.

The Army released its 2013 Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Army 2020 Force Structure Realignment after evaluating 21 Army installations and joint bases where Army stationing changes could result in the inactivation and restructuring of brigade combat teams.

Last November, the Army released the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment to build on the 2013 PEA. It cited possible reductions of 3,500 Army personnel for Fort Meade — 2,416 soldiers and 800 civilians, according to Konzelman.

Konzelman said the numbers for Fort Meade that were cited in the 2014 SPEA are not actual or even projected losses, but only signify “the greatest cumulative impact” to the installation. He said the Army leadership considers many factors when deciding upon reductions, including strategic considerations.

“We know how important Fort Meade is with all its cyberactions that are going on here,” Konzelman said.

Post Growth

Buchanan added there have not been any announced cuts for Fort Meade. In fact, there is continued growth.

Foley discussed the Department of Defense (DoD) growth that is occurring on Fort Meade, which will lead to an additional 2,310 people assigned to the installation during the next five years. Most of the growth on Fort Meade revolves around the physical and operational buildout of U.S. CyberCommand.

Currently, about $1.8 billion in facility construction is taking place at Fort Meade, mostly due to U.S. CyberCommand growth and NSA recapitilization.

Foley said that he will soon break ground on the renovation of the Rockenbach Road access control point and that the garrison is in discussions with Army leadership in regard to $59.1 million in funding needed to improve the installation’s roads.

Several members of the Fort Meade community spoke about the installation’s economic contributions to the region and the state, as well as its prominence as the nation’s center of information, intelligence and cyberoperations, due to the presence of U.S. CyberCommand, Marine Corps CyberCommand, Navy Fleet CyberCommand, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

“Fort Meade cannot be evaluated for cuts in the same way as other Army posts,” said Claire Louder, president and CEO of the West County Chamber of Commerce.

Louder said that as a DoD joint-service base, Fort Meade has more in common with the Pentagon than other Army installations, such as Fort Hood in Texas or Fort Bragg, N.C.

Any projected cuts to Fort Meade would result in “completely eliminating” the garrison’s staff, Louder said, as well as one or more of the installation’s military intelligence units.

“Clearly, this is not feasible on an installation that is growing exponentially,” she said.

In Agreement

Several representatives from state and county business and community organizations, as well as the county executive’s office and two councilmen, echoed Louder’s sentiments regarding the need to provide adequate resources for Fort Meade to support the installation’s ongoing growth, despite any pending reductions.

“Given the current and future growth at Fort Meade and the unique, critical mission of the forces and agencies here, we ask you when you assess and reflect [upon] cuts at Fort Meade, [it would be] ill-advised and detrimental to this country’s defense and cyber readiness and operations,” said Linda Greene, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership and chair of the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council.

This article was supplied by the Fort Meade Public Affairs Office.