Fort Meade leads

Guest Column

Chris Thiel, Chief of Plans, Analysis and Integration office

On Sept. 20, 1917, thousands of men began arriving at Camp Meade to train for combat in World War I.

Just three months before, on June 23, the future center for national cyber operations featured family farms, fields, wooded land and a railroad crossing.

In those short three months, this area exploded with the sounds of sawing, hammer strikes, shovel work and more — all devoted to rapidly building and projecting America’s national power on the world stage.

More than 400,000 Soldiers trained and deployed from Fort Meade in World War I including my great-grandfather, an electrician from Coney Island, N.Y., assigned to F Company, 314th Infantry Regiment.

As military operations ebbed and flowed over the past 100 years, Fort Meade shrank and then rose to meet the challenges of each new era.

Our World War II population here climbed to 70,000 with over 3.5 million men trained to fight with weapons of that age.

The National Security Agency put its flag on Fort Meade after the war and dominated the intersection of the Cold War and the Information Age.

Fort Meade has grown significantly since I first lived here in 1996. When I arrived, there were nearly 5,500 Army, 2,500 Air Force, 2,000 Navy and 150 Marines on Fort Meade with a post working population of 38,016.

With the help of BRAC and the establishment of U.S. Cyber Command, the post has grown from 36,628 in 2009 to a healthy 56,013 today. While the Army population stayed steady at nearly 4,000 Soldiers since 2009, the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine population is now double the Army number with over 8,000 joint service members.

My team in the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office works closely with partners on and off post to document installation growth, plan associated mission requirements, conduct garrison performance management analysis, and lead planning teams.

We listen to our partners, visit unit leaders, and discuss our strengths and weaknesses to build better services and improve our shared infrastructure including roadways, barracks and gyms.

Documenting change activities, mission growth and planning for tomorrow is the heart of our efforts to update the Garrison Strategic Plan while we also conduct our annual Installation Planning Board on Aug. 2. This command level discussion is the culmination of the annual planning process, linking garrison directorate councils and feeder boards to partner commands’ needs.

Command consensus produces an Integrated Priority List focused on resourcing shared infrastructure and improving installation services.

Fort Meade’s intelligence, information and cyber community has led an evolution in military doctrine, establishing a fledgling fifth domain of warfare, sparking business growth throughout Maryland, and providing personal and professional opportunities for Maryland’s workforce.

Efforts to date by Fort Meade leaders and community partners supporting cyber and intelligence missions and employees have made Fort Meade the largest employer in the state of Maryland, with an economic impact to the state exceeding $26 billion in 2012.

Installation construction and growth is projected to continue through 2028.

The Garrison PAI Office is now partnering with the state of Maryland, compiling data to support the 2016 Economic Impact Study, which promises to exceed a $30 billion impact on the community and region.

Fort Meade’s growth and resulting “Cyber Valley” effect have created a need to grow the next generation of cyber professionals.

Our young people, who are participating in cyber STEM programs, learning coding in schools and attending cyber and robotic camps, are gaining pre-college experience, often real college credits, making good choices and preparing to take cyber to the next level.

Fort Meade leads.

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