With nearly one-third of its employees already relocated, the Defense Information Systems Agency has shifted its command from Arlington to Fort Meade, which is rapidly becoming the center of the government’s cybersecurity work.
“DISA has arrived,” announced Lt. Gen. Carroll F. Pollett, the agency’s director, at a breakfast outside Baltimore last week. “We have moved our flag and our command post to Fort Meade.”
DISA is sending 4,300 employees to the base as part of a larger Pentagon base realignment and closure initiative. The rapidly growing Fort Meade has long been home to the National Security Agency and was also selected as the headquarters for the new U.S. Cyber Command.
Pollett said last week that 1,300 of DISA’s workers had already moved and 600 more would be in place by the end of March.
By Aug. 1, DISA’s employees should all be at Fort Meade, and the agency expects to close its D.C.-area facilities by the end of August. The government’s deadline to complete closure and realignment moves is Sept. 15.
Already, the agency is beginning to show signs of becoming a more Maryland-based organization. In 2009, Pollett said, about one-fifth of the agency’s workforce lived in the state. Today, that figure has surged to more than 42 percent.
Pollett attributed the growth to more recent hiring efforts, at which DISA has made clear to applicants that it is moving, as well as relocations by existing workers.
He estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 contractors have also moved to the Fort Meade area.
Addressing a crowd of Maryland business officials, Pollett said the area can anticipate continued aggressive hiring efforts. The job fairs have been well received; at the last one, an Atlanta woman showed up at 4 a.m. to be first in line, he said, and was hired.
He said the agency has lost relatively few employees to the move and its civilian workforce is fully staffed.
“We’ve lost some intellectual talent,” Pollett acknowledged, “[but] nobody’s irreplaceable.”
Anticipating additional turnover, the agency is particularly focusing on young people as potential future hires. Pollett said it has nearly doubled its internship program to include almost 400 positions and is expanding a small program that allows high school students to shadow DISA employees.
It has also scheduled two more job fairs in the coming months.
“I think we’re going to continue to see this base transition over the next couple of years,” Pollett said.
The agency is planning to host a formal ribbon-cutting at Fort Meade next month, according to Pollett.