Fort Meade: A Maryland Treasure

Guest Column

By Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Senator

On Feb. 1, I joined the Fort Meade Alliance and retired Gen. Keith B. Alexander for a discussion of cybersecurity and other concerns of the Fort Meade community.

I had the privilege to tour the Fort Meade campus with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski last June and to be briefed on this unique asset to our nation and our community.

In the last National Defense Authorization Act, Congress established a process to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to a unified command. This will bring new jobs and resources to Fort Meade to expand the Department of Defense’s critical cybersecurity mission.

Throughout this process, CyberCom must continue to work hand-in-hand with the National Security Agency.

The elevation of CyberCom and our nation’s increased focus on cybersecurity following high-profile cyber attacks by China and Russia bring important opportunities to Fort Meade and Maryland as a national leader. And as the National Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity noted in its December 2016 “Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy,” our nation’s cyber defense will rely heavily on partnership and cooperation between the federal government and the private sector.

With the growth of connected devices and cloud computing, security must be integrated into design, and industry sectors must share information and best practices for defending against threats while protecting the personal data of their users.

The increased focus on cybersecurity at Fort Meade brings challenges to develop our workforce and improve transportation and quality of life around the installation to ensure we can recruit top talent.

Workforce development will require a coordinated approach from STEM education through K-12 to community and four-year colleges.

Maryland is fortunate to have 17 NSA-certified Centers of Academic Excellence. I was pleased to help a consortium of community colleges receive a cybersecurity education grant in 2014.

Once students are trained and ready for employment, we also need to look at the security clearance and polygraph process to reduce the backlog while ensuring the safety of our data and operations.

I’ve heard repeatedly from those working on and around the installation that there are significant infrastructure needs.

Fort Meade is a unique Army installation that is home to all five branches of the military services and more than 115 government agencies and organizations, and there are challenges in installation funding for shared resources like road maintenance and security.

With congestion growing on and around the post, we should consider ways to bring more transportation and transit options to central Maryland. Increased bus service between the Odenton and Savage MARC stations and Fort Meade is a good start, as are the improvements to the Reece Road and Mapes Road gates.

These quality-of-life issues are key to recruitment and retention of the best and the brightest to our federal workforce and industry partners in our community.

Fort Meade has worked toward improving the resiliency and health of its employees and their families, both as part of the Department of Defense’s Healthy Base Initiative and in partnership with the Fort Meade Alliance to renovate Kuhn Hall as a Resiliency and Education Center.

Fort Meade and its surrounding community play a critical role in our nation’s security and are major economic drivers for our state.

I am proud to represent Fort Meade in the United States Senate, and I look forward to working in partnership with Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, and all stakeholders in the area to ensure its continued growth and success.

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