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(Enlarge) Mel Russell, Director of the American Forces Radio and Television Service, speaks to the Fort Meade Alliance about the mission of the new Defense Media Activity.

While it is no secret the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) committee decided to move three government agencies to Fort Meade, there is not much known about the organizations that will make Fort Meade their home by late 2010.

That all changed last week as leaders from those organizations met with members of the Fort Meade Alliance to explain who they are and what they do. The alliance is a group of business officials, civic leaders and other interested people who act as a liaison between the installation and the community.

During the meeting, held March 16 at Club Meade, Installation Commander Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy explained that the move of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the Defense Media Activity and the Defense Security Clearance Activities are just the beginning of a 30-50 year development plan that could eventually see the construction of 21 million square feet of buildings and parking structures to provide space for up to 49,000 people.

One of the lingering questions is where the buildings are going to go to for the first three new organizations.

During his presentation, McCreedy displayed a map of Fort Meade that didn't seem to allow much room for growth. He made reference to a large green spot in the middle of the map. That green spot is currently home to The Courses, Fort Meade's two 18-hole golf courses.

While the exact locations are yet to be determined, the DISA facility will be 1 million square feet, the Media Center will occupy 186,000 square feet and the Security Clearance Agency will need 250,000 square feet of operating space. New buildings will be built for each agency and will cost $350 million. Another $50 million will be spent in support-related construction.

After McCreedy's briefing, a representative from each of the agencies told the group how happy they were to be moving to this area and shared concerns associated with the move.

"Only 25 percent of our employees from the Air Force News Agency in San Antonio will make the move to Fort Meade. We will hire an almost completely new group of employees when we move here (Fort Meade)," said Mel Russell, Director of the American Forces Radio and Television Service.

David Bullock, an official with DISA, says that 75 percent of their workforce lives in Northern Virginia and will face a significant increase in their commute time if they decide to move with the agency. "We are concerned about the availability of housing, the quality of schools and the overall quality of life for our employees that decide to move closer to Fort Meade," he said.

McCreedy understands DISA's concerns and feels it is important for their employees to get to know Anne Arundel County and what the Baltimore-Washington corridor has to offer.

With less than 12 percent of the new workforce being military, the majority of the people who will start working at Fort Meade will need to find housing in the surrounding communities.

While there may be concerns about the move, the agencies coming to Fort Meade will offer a wide spectrum of Department of Defense (DoD) activities.

The Defense Media Activity is the new working title of the organization that oversees military media operations around the world. The Naval Media Center in Washington, the Soldiers Media Center in Alexandria, Va., Air Force News and the Army-Air Force Hometown News Agency in San Antonio as well as the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) Internal Communication Office will all relocate to Fort Meade. The installation is already home to the Defense Information School - where the military's print and broadcast journalists are taught as well as combat cameramen, video technicians, graphic artists and Navy lithographers. Advanced public affairs training is also taught at the school.

With a $6 million budget, DISA is responsible for the transmission and processing of data for the DoD. They employ 6,600 people worldwide and 4,100 of those will end up working here.

Defense Security Clearance Activities is responsible for the security program for DoD industry.

"It is a benefit to the DoD to get its adjudication services together in one place," said Michael Townes, deputy director of the Defense Security Service.

Fort Meade is not the only place that will see new construction. A plan has been approved to widen Maryland Route 175 to six lanes from the Baltimore-Washinton Parkway (Route 295) to Telegraph Road (Route 170). As part of the road project, a 30-foot-high sound barrier will be built bordering the west side of Route 175 from Rockenbach Road to Route 32.

Odenton Town Center, to be built at the junction of routes 32 and 175, finally got its wetlands permits and plans are going forward to begin construction. There are also plans in the works to upgrade the Odenton MARC station. Upgrades will include a parking garage and the possibility of shuttle service to and from Fort Meade.

Some of the infrastructure upgrades include new water mains that will run through Fort Meade along Route 175. The mains will transfer water from the Crofton Water Treatment Plant to the Glen Burnie Water Service area and a county Water Booster Pumping Station will also be installed.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens is excited about the future of the area. "We will have a center of Information Technology for the world," she said. She also praised Col. McCreedy for bringing everything together.

While the future can be cloudy, this meeting made great strides in parting those clouds to give the Fort Meade alliance a brighter picture of what is to come.

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