Last Wednesday night the Mount Vernon Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America was told, "An awful lot of people are about to start working on Fort Belvoir."
That alert came from Lt. Col. Mark R. Lindon, Headquarters Battalion commander, Fort Belvoir, to association members assembled at the base Officers Club for their regular monthly meeting. It referred to the move of the Army Materiel Command (AMC) from its location on Eisenhower Avenue to inside the base.
"AMC's 1,300 people will be moving in and out of the base on a daily basis," Lindon told the gathering. "We have not looked at how we are going to handle all that new traffic on base. It is going to impact area roads as well."
As of June 2002, the total work force at Fort Belvoir was 21,500. Of that total 13,400 are civilian, 4,900 are military, and 3,200 are contractors. AMC's addition amounts to a 6-percent increase.
This was just one of many happenings at Fort Belvoir that Lindon explained during his presentation. But AMC's move and the base's new housing program, known as the Residential Communities Initiative (RCI), were not only two of the largest now under way but also two that will impact the surrounding community the most in the short term.
One of the first questions put to Lindon, following his presentation, concerned the relationship between RCI and the controversy over closing the Woodlawn Little League fields. His answer was that "a number of scenarios are being considered, and we hope something will be worked out to everyone's satisfaction."
He did explain that the ultimate goal of the RCI program nationwide is "to get the military out of the housing business" and have it be the function of private contractors. He listed five objectives for the local RCI effort: replace existing family housing with more up-to-date units and add up to 1,000 new units; revitalize historic homes and properties on base; enhance the quality of life and family well-being for military personnel living on base; maintain continuous improvement; and establish a win-win entrepreneurial partnership with the developer partner Clark Pinnacle.
AS FOR THE AMC move, this will take place in six phases, according to Lindon. The first was completed late last fall. The second was to have been completed by March 2003, with three and four to follow by late this summer. The final two are scheduled for this coming fall.
"But, like everything else, this weather has slowed the entire process," Lindon admitted. "Right now we have a lot of mud where there is supposed to be a building. Since these are modular buildings, they are parked all over the post."
As Lindon pointed out, Belvoir is a city in itself. It covers 13.5 square miles, has 160 miles of roads, 1,350 buildings, 2,070 housing units, a regional hospital, fire and police departments, shopping center, post office, airport, elementary school, parks and recreation sites, and a variety of community services including its own newspaper, television and Web site.
Over the past decade, investments in Belvoir have totaled more than $1 billion. That will double in the decade ahead, he told his audience. "It presents both challenges and opportunities for us and the community," he said.
ONE OF THE major changes in the immediate future is the newly proposed gate structure to make both entering and leaving more of a challenge. In addition to the present identification point, there will be passive barriers, active barriers, supplemental items such as speed bumps and road spikes, search areas, and a site control center at each entry point.
Lindon held out no hope for the reopening of Woodlawn Road. Although he did admit that Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) projection to widen Route 1 would impact the entire roadway evaluation, "A Woodlawn Road replacement is part of the overall Master Plan update," he said.
"The Access Control, Force Protection directed by the Department of Defense actually began in April 2001 but was greatly accelerated by 9/11. We were in a practice drill on 9/11 when it went from practice to reality," Lindon said.
"When will a final determination be made as to the location of the new Army Museum?" he was asked. Lindon explained, "Presently, it is planned to be just outside the wire at the intersection of Route 1 and Telegraph Road.
"However, it has also been suggested that it be located near the Pence Gate (main gate)." When asked about funding for the Museum, Lindon noted, "The Museum will be funded entirely by contributions, but the Army will pay for operations and staffing."
Returning to the impact of Access Control on the base's overall operations, one participant warned that Belvoir was running the risk of severely depleting one of its greatest cash cows, the Commissary. "It is becoming more and more difficult to get to, and people are more likely to opt for the Safeway or Giant," Lindon was warned.
He acknowledged that this could adversely impact the Base's income but stressed it was all part of the total security effort. "We want to make Belvoir a superior place to work and live, but we also want to make it safe and secure."