Fort Belvoir narrowly avoided multiple gate closures this week that threatened to exacerbate escalating traffic congestion along the Route 1 corridor. After reviewing gate procedures and realigning manpower to meet the Department of the Army’s mandated 40 percent reduction in security guards officials changed gears.
After fearing that several of these access control points would be permanently lost, “Belvoir officials will close only one entrance and two sparsely used exits beginning Oct. 1,” according to Donald Dees, Belvoir public affairs.
Woodlawn Road Gate, also known as Route 618 Gate, which has been closed since 9-11 to all except authorized installation traffic, will be the only inbound gate to fall under the Army’s budget ax. Little used exit gates, Gunston Road Overpass and Leiber, will also be closed.
The decision to cut the number of contract guards worldwide came after the Army determined installations were spending too much on contract security without having a standard on how many guards should be placed at a given point, according to Maj. Christopher Butler, director, Emergency Services, Fort Belvoir.
“Guards were also being used for things other than gate guards at other installations. Some were doing perimeter check and working in MP stations. Things they weren’t supposed to be doing,” Butler explained.
Originally, it was announced by Fort Belvoir officials that Pence Gate, the main entrance to the installation off Route 1 would close, along with Woodlawn, Gunston Road, and Leiber.
Pence, Kingman, and Walker gates will operate 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Tully, Farrar, and Woodlawn Village gates will operate 24-7. Telegraph Road/Beulah Street will operate 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Woodlawn Gate, Route 618, will be closed.
PRIOR TO THE REVISED gate schedule late Tuesday, the announcement of multiple gate closings and reduction in operating hours brought forth an immediate response from Fairfax County district supervisors Dana Kauffman and Gerald Hyland, Lee and Mount Vernon districts respectively.
In a joint Board Matter during Monday’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Meeting they requested that a letter be sent from Board Chairman Gerald Connolly to the Secretary of the Army urging him “not to take any action that would require a security reduction” at Belvoir. They saw the Army’s directive as “taking a bad problem and making it unbearable” in its potential to escalate growing traffic gridlock along the Route 1 corridor.
However, even under the new plan, Belvoir’s contract security guard force will be reduced from 131 to 78, according to Butler. To determine the number of guards Belvoir needed, military police conducted a two-week survey during which they monitored the number of vehicles utilizing each gate.
Fort Belvoir Installation Commander Col. Brian Lauritzen also expressed concern with the cuts as limiting the base’s ability to increase the number of access control points when Belvoir begins to experience the expected growth and traffic flow from BRAC, according to Belvoir officials.