Aberdeen Proving Ground gained more than 8,000 direct jobs, thousands of new defense contractor jobs and 2.8 million square feet of building space during the 2005 BRAC process.
Though no plans are imminent, were Congress to implement another Base Realignment and Closure, APG’s new commanding general says the post has a “vibrant future.”
“The Army has a vested interest in maintaining us here and what we do,” Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo said last week. “The industry is here, we’ve got great people that work here, we’ve got a series of commands here that work very well and have to be integrated and touching one another, so I don’t see anything but promise here for APG.”
Kilgo and Col. Timothy Druell have been at APG for six weeks and seven weeks, respectively. Both sat down with members of the media last week in Kilgo’s office in the C5ISR headquarters for a question-and-answer session.
The leaders of Harford County’s largest employer discussed their feelings about being at Aberdeen Proving Ground, its role in the community and its workforce as well as housing and other infrastructure needs.
Kilgo, who assumes the role of senior commander of APG and the Army Communications-Electronics Command, comes to the post from the U.S. Central Command MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
He and Druell are “learning together, growing together," Kilgo said.
Trained as a signaleer “through and through,” commanding at APG is a different role for him and CECOM focuses on the C5ISR systems from a different perspective, he said.
“It deals with sustainment of all systems to ensure all our operating systems have worked and are able to get the supplies necessary to be combat effective and limited downtime associated with our major combat platforms,” Kilgo said. “So it’s a major learning experience for me ... it’s an exciting job for me, an opportunity to reinvigorate myself and learn a lit bit more about the fascinating things this command does.”
Unlike most of his predecessors, Kilgo said, he has young children — two sons ages 13 and 10, who will attend Aberdeen Middle and Roye-Williams Elementary, respectively.
“We have some focus on them and their well-being, they’ll be in local schools and the community, so it gives my family an opportunity to do much more with the youngsters,” Kilgo said.
He’s looking forward to getting involved in the community; his first event was a veterans appreciation day in Cecil County.
“It was a fun event to get out, to get to know the people a little bit, getting to the surrounding [communities],” Kilgo said. “You’ll see me out in the community at various things with local companies as well as organizations that are here. I’ll definitely keep that up and I’m looking forward to it.”
His first impressions of Harford County “are good.”
Coming from Tampa, and Fayetteville, N.C., before that, APG and Harford are quieter than he’s used to, but it’s “scenic and peaceful.”
“My first impression of the people, they’re very open, kind and I think it’s going to be a good experience,” Kilgo said. “My family already likes being here and always for me, that’s the check mark — if they’re happy, I’m happy.”
Unlike Kilgo, on his first assignment at APG, Druell is on his third assignment at the post — one of his daughters was born in Harford County.
“The transition has been great for the family and I,” Druell, originally from South Carolina, said. “I consider APG and the Harford County area a second home for us.”
First assigned to APG in 2008, Druell was most recently assigned to the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command at APG, where he was assistant chief of staff of operations.
“I’m extremely honored to be here, to have the opportunity to serve the soldiers, families and civilians of the local community, and to bridge our partnerships with community leaders," Druell, who has four children, said. “Every day I get to wear this uniform, I get to do this job, is a true blessing and I take it to heart and try to apply that passion to the daily job and support to our team.”
C5ISR — the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance — Center is one of the commands that came to APG as a result of the 2005 BRAC, which brought 8,500 new jobs. The military contingent dwindled while the civilian workforce surged.
Also coming to APG were the Army Test and Evaluation Command from Alexandria, Va.; the Non-Medical Chemical and Biological Defense from Brooks City Base, Texas; the Defense Threat Reduction Agency from Fort Belvoir, Va.; the Army Research Institute from Fort Knox, Ky.; the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Vehicle Technology Directorate from Glenn, Ohio, and Langley, Virginia.
APG lost several long-time organizations — the Ordnance Center and School and the Ordnance Museum moved to Fort Lee, Va., and the Army Environmental Command relocated to Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
APG doesn’t need to be protected in the event of another base realignment, Kilgo said.
“I think what we have to do is continue to do the things we do and that’s deliver combat capability for our Army,” he said. “As long as we are focused on delivering capability for the Army, we’re value added to the Army and this community will be able to maintain what it has and potentially grow. Some of the things happen here at APG proper don’t happen anyplace else in the enterprise.”
The general pointed out that BRAC is a political process, and because he wears a uniform, he is apolitical.
“So I don’t get a vote in that, I don’t debate those types of things,” Kilgo said, “but just from a capability [aspect] and what this place provides for the Army, I see us as having a vibrant future.”
Local officials also think Harford and APG are well-positioned for the future.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has assigned Karen Holt to be the county’s federal liaison and keep up to date on issues such as BRAC, APG and other related developments.
During a recent conference she attended, an Oklahoma senator, when asked about BRAC, said there won’t be one in the near future, Cindy Mumby, a spokesperson for Harford County government, said.
“However, the Army’s mission is to improve modernization and readiness, and that could mean consolidation and movement among existing facilities,” Mumby said. “We believe APG and Harford County are well-positioned for a future BRAC or any other type of movement. APG is a very large federal asset, and as the Army looks to better utilize its assets, Harford County is poised for future growth.”
Harford has 150 defense contractors with offices here, housing is available to accommodate growth, the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor was named a Great American Defense Community and the county is completing a joint land use study — all efforts being made locally.
“The bottom line is APG is the communications hub for the Army,” Mumby said.
One of the Army’s six centers of excellence is in cyber security, one of the biggest issues facing the nation in terms of defense, according to the Army.
“And Aberdeen Proving Ground is a national asset in terms of addressing that challenge,” Mumby said. “It really is at the cutting edge of the future of planning for our nation’s defense.”
Infrastructure and housing are both top priorities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Druell said.
The Army Installation Management Command has five priorities: infrastructure, protection, support to training, support to solder programs and support to family programs, Druell said.
“Infrastructure is absolutely a top priority of ours to ensure we are providing the right resources in a timely manner for our facilities,” Druell said, which includes new roofs and improving the road network on post.
Among APG, the Edgewood Area as well as Adelphi and Blossom Point, which also fall under APG, are 2,100 buildings, about 50 percent of which are in the lowest rating category.
“That drives money and resources and time and energy, so we’re getting after it,” Druell said.
He’s been impressed with the work done on post in the last year and doesn’t see a “downward trend.”
Druell and his staff will be developing an annual work plan to present to Kilgo in the next month to lay out top infrastructure priorities for 2020.
Housing, too, is “absolutely a top priority” for the APG leaders.
“It remains a top priority for our Army,” Druell said. “We are coming out of the housing crisis and we’re moving and transitioning into a housing campaign.”
APG’s housing team and its residential community initiative partners have recently hired six and five new employees, respectively.
“What that does is helps us provide efforts and support to our extensive work order status, provides a direct oversight of the Army into a program that wasn’t getting that focus," Druell said.
APG officials and their partners meet weekly to discuss key issues such as whether they are meeting Army standards for occupancy and the status of work orders, Druell said.
Outstanding work orders for emergencies are reviewed line by line to see why they might not be completed in a timely manner.
In terms of follow-ups, the Army requires calls on 5 percent of its work orders, though APG was at 15 percent. Two weeks ago, Druell directed that APG follow up on 25 percent of its work orders.
Druell said it’s important that APG’s residential community initiative partner is providing the right quality of support and service to make sure “families — whether soldiers, civilians, retirees or contractors ... are getting the right quality of life and living conditions they would receive at any other installation."