Col. Brian Foley has taken command of Fort Meade at a challenging time for the U.S. military.
With the end of the war in Iraq in 2011 and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan next year, growth in defense spending was already expected to taper. Then came the sequester, the across-the-board cuts that led the Pentagon to furlough civilian employees over the summer.
Fort Meade grew rapidly in the 2005 round of the base realignment known as BRAC to became the third-largest base in the Army. But as Congress struggles to reach agreement on spending for the fiscal year that begins in October, Foley now is preparing for cuts of 10 percent to 20 percent from current spending.
The 45-year-old Signal Corps officer took command of the state's largest workplace last month. The base in Anne Arundel County is home to some 52,000 service members, civilians and government contractors who work for tenants that include the National Security Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command.
As garrison commander, Foley commands 950 workers. The job is sometimes likened to that of a mayor: The garrison commander oversees base construction; police, fire and security; family care, morale and wellbeing programs; food management; environmental programs; public works; and installation funding.
Foley, a master parachutist who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and who worked most recently at the Pentagon, sat down with The Baltimore Sun to discuss the challenges ahead.
You take command of Fort Meade in this moment of budget cuts, sequestration and furloughs. How is that affecting your planning? What do you foresee for the command going into the new fiscal year?
Colonel [Edward] Rothstein, my predecessor, did an absolutely wonderful job marketing the continued growth here on Fort Meade to the Maryland community. So there is no question that the Maryland leadership — civilian leadership, congressional leadership — clearly understands the growth going on here on Fort Meade that will continue. …
I see my biggest role and challenge over the next two to three years ensuring that I market the continued growth and needs at Fort Meade not to the Maryland community but to the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense. I've got to ensure that as the rest of the Army downsizes that the continued growth here on Fort Meade is clearly understood.
BRAC is now complete. But with BRAC came the needs for infrastructure improvements in the surrounding community. Some local roads have been expanded, and transportation options have been added. Is there anything left over to be done or to advocate for?
Yes, absolutely. We still need to strongly advocate for the increased regional transportation improvements. … We need [Route] 175 to be fully improved from [Route] 295 all the way down south through Odenton. We need the continued advocacy of our state of Maryland partners to try to obtain the resources that will be needed to grow the transportation infrastructure.
So I will focus on going to [the Army Installation Command] to make sure that our internal base garrison infrastructure needs are met. And I'll need the advocacy of the state, the channel that we're trying to work, for the regional transportation structure.
Colonel Rothstein focused on several areas during his time here: the alleged sale of the drug "spice" at some of the gas stations along Route 175, suicide prevention and others. Do you come in here with the idea of continuing to focus on those areas, or are there other specific areas that you want to look at?
I just finished up my first 30 days in the job. That was focused on assessing the directors, my directorates, my internal staff, my staff sections, best understanding their functions and roles and their shortfalls and needs.
They've collectively identified in general needing additional personnel on our garrison staff here to best service our tenant organizations. So that will be one focus, ensuring, again, that our garrison staff is adequately resourced with the people that we need to best support the growth here on Fort Meade.
I fully intend to sustain the efforts that Colonel Rothstein implemented. And also one of my other immediate focuses here has been and will continue to be advocacy and work with our child youth services centers and facilities here on the installation.
We have three child development centers and two youth service facilities on the installation. These are [Department of Defense] services, so separate from the seven Maryland county/state schools that we also have here. But getting the resources our development centers need to ensure that we're obviously providing the best possible care to our children that we can.
What kind of preparation did you get before taking command of Fort Meade?
There's no formal process that the Army establishes. It's more of an informal process. The formal piece to it is a garrison leaders' course that Installation Management Command runs. And their intent is to get garrison commanders into that course after you've been in the job for a short period of time so you go to the course better-educated, understanding what your challenges are, so you can better interact with the Installation Management Command staff.
The advantage of Ed Rothstein and I swapping out is I had just been working at the Pentagon for the past two years and living in Alexandria in Northern Virginia. So my previous boss afforded me the time to take as much time as I needed to come up here and overlap with Ed. And Ed was 100 percent gracious. He gave me a wonderful turnover. He opened the doors of this command to me several months before the actual change-of-command date. So I was able to get up here three or four times, sit down with Ed, learn the challenges, learn his initiatives, his areas of focus. And I felt that he afforded me a very good transition with the job.
What kind of guidance are you getting in terms of the possibility of a continuing sequester, furloughs or other cuts?
No detailed information yet. So we're planning, obviously for the potential of further cuts. We're planning for the potential of somewhere between 10 and 20 percent cuts in our appropriated funding for next year. So we're doing analysis on what happens if, and what additional services then would potentially be impacted here.
I just had the opportunity to provide a commander's letter of impact up to Installation Management Command if we take further cuts beyond the 50-plus percent cut we already took last year. What additional services I will have to potentially either limit or cut completely, and the potential impact on our community here if I need to do that.
Again, it's that marketing aspect that I have to do to ensure that Installation Management Command, Department of the Army and Department of Defense are crystal-clear that while every other Army installation, Army fort may be downsizing to some degree, or they're going to have less people, less soldiers, that's not the case here. I need to sustain the amount of resource needed to sustain the services that we are obligated to provide to the people that live and work on this installation. The 51,945 people as of the most recent count. That's a lot of folks.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun