There have been a number of comments over the past few weeks regarding the Fort Meade leadership decision to adjust gate operating hours.
The comments, found on Facebook and through the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system, attempt to get more understanding of this decision.
We announced on June 29 that beginning July 9, the new gate operating hours would be in effect until it can increase the Department of the Army security guard manpower strength to a point to reconsider that decision.
The new hours affect the following access control points:
Rockenbach Road ACP’s new weekday operating hours: 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Rockenbach Road ACP weekend operating hours: Closed
Mapes Road/Route 32 ACP’s new weekend operating hours: Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Weekday operating hours remain unchanged: Monday to Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Reece Road and Llewellyn Avenue ACP’s operating hours: Unchanged
This decision did not come lightly. On the contrary, this decision occurred only after a deliberate manpower and traffic analysis balanced against community needs.
We knew this decision, while necessary, would not be popular and, therefore, gave it appropriate consideration. The necessity to reduce gate hours results from current available DASG manning versus gate usage during certain periods.
As a base, our first and foremost responsibility is the safety, security and welfare of our community inside the installation. To do that, we have operational imperatives that require proper management of the DASG force at Fort Meade.
Fort Meade DES does not have available DASG proportionate to our previous gate-manning requirements. In fact, our DASG authorizations have been reduced over the past few years without a corresponding decrease in gate access requirements.
This has strained our DASG force, but we did it for public convenience. While we want to increasingly hire more guards to meet the community’s desires, we are not authorized or funded to do so.
Traffic throughout determines authorizations and funding. The Office of the Provost Marshal General and Installation Management Command use manning models based on gate traffic volume. If a particular gate does not have a certain traffic volume, then OPMG and IMCOM do not provide DASG authorizations or gate funding.
Less authorizations and money means less guards. This is the case with the Rockenbach Road gate on weekday evenings and weekends and the Mapes/32 gate on weekend evenings; traffic volume was consistently low.
This is not to say those gates were not used — we know they were — but not at levels to maintain DASG authorizations and funding.
As stated previously, our first priority is the safety, security and welfare of Fort Meade. We have to focus our limited DASG manpower to fewer installation access points at certain times to ensure proper force protection.
Of course, this also means closing other, lesser-used gates so we do not spread our guard force thin.
This was our balance — reducing gate operations only to the extent necessary to relieve pressure on a reduced guard force while maintaining appropriate force protection and simultaneously limiting impact on the community.
This was how we took the Fort Meade community into consideration when making this decision. Closing certain gates is an inconvenience. But more importantly, adjusting gate hours to relieve pressure on our guard force allows them to continue providing the right level of force protection to the installation.
That is the priority service they deliver: protecting those who live and work on Fort Meade. Unfortunately, sometimes that comes at the expense of convenience.
Some have recommended using military police at the gates as is done at other Army installations. Posts such as Forts Bragg, Lewis, Hood or Carson can do so because they have MP brigades, battalions and companies there. In other words, lots of MPs to augment gates.
Fort Meade has only the 241st MP Detachment, which does not have even half an MP company’s manpower. This limited number of MPs support the Fort Meade community daily by augmenting installation law enforcement, including police patrols, traffic investigations and police investigations.
They also support MDW operations when required. This means no MPs are available to augment gates.
Another recommendation is to use other military personnel to augment gate security as done at other posts. We currently do. For example, we have Sailors at the gates in the mornings.
However, there are still limitations. They cannot be armed and cannot man the gates without DASG presence, and their availability is not always guaranteed.
Furthermore, the garrison commander cannot task such augmentation. That said, we very much welcome any unit that would like to volunteer to assist because it provides flexibility to our guard force.
This was a difficult but necessary and deliberate decision. Closing gates is not popular, but we had to do it. Keeping all gates open with a reduced guard force spreads those guards thin across the installation, which risks compromising force protection.
In addition, continuing to strain a reduced guard force to meet operational requirements that exceed manning resources will ultimately burn them out, which also risks compromising force protection.
Our first and foremost responsibility to the Fort Meade community is its safety, security and welfare. On that we cannot compromise.
We will protect and secure Fort Meade and its people.