By Sherry Kuiper, Fort Meade Public Affairs
The Fort Meade Community Partnership Summit included a workforce development workgroup which collaborated to identify opportunities to share programs and enhance support for the careers of military spouses as well as service members transitioning out of the military. Pictured here is a Community Job Fair held at Fort Meade in 2015. (US Army Photo)
Fort Meade hosts Community Partnership Summit with big wins for spousal employment, workforce development
Fort Meade hosted a virtual Community Partnership Summit on March 23-24, 2021 in an effort to share resources with local communities.
The summit kicked off with opening remarks from the Fort Meade Garrison Commander followed by two days of sessions geared toward exploring opportunities for shared services.
“We have great community partners,” said Garrison Commander, Col. Christopher Nyland. “I am excited to expand our opportunities to work together.”
Nearly 50 community partners joined in the summit including several local government offices and other military installations.
The two-day event held a number of sessions on specific needs to see where there might be opportunities for partnerships.
Fort Meade is looking for these partnerships in the areas of: computer aided dispatch, stormwater pond engineering services, elevator maintenance, deer culling and processing, custodial services and workforce development, among other regional partnerships.
“These partnerships are meant to be a win-win collaboration,” said Col. Nyland. “We want these partnerships to be a cost savings or cost avoidance for the Army and the community.”
Elevator maintenance was cited as an example.
With only a few elevators on the garrison, it could potentially save money to form a partnership with a neighboring county.
One benefit from such a partnership could result in increased efficiencies and with an increase in the volume of work performed through a county contract, the potential is there for the county and the Army to receive reduced service costs.
Ideally, these partnerships would lead to Intergovernmental Support Agreements, which are agreements between the Army and a state or local government that serve the best interests of both parties and improves installation support services for Mission, Soldier, and Family Readiness.
“The partnership summit was a great success: we learned together with state and county partners, we shared business concerns, and we discovered paths forward where we can work together,” said Christopher Thiel, Director of Fort Meade’s Plans, Analysis and Integration Office. “We are looking forward to taking the next steps to create smart partnerships with friends outside the fence.”
Other installations are having a lot of success with these agreements.
In 2019, Fort Lee partnered with Prince George County, Virginia for computer aided dispatch services, which provided a $6 million cost avoidance for the Army and increased capacity for local emergency personnel.
The partnership allowed Prince George County to upgrade their EMS infrastructure.
In 2020, Fort Stewart partnered with the City of Hinesville, Georgia for Grounds Maintenance Services, which reduced the number of contracts the Army had to manage with the transition to one IGSA.
The City of Hinesville received a new revenue stream and upgraded purchase power for new equipment.
Lt. General Douglas Gabram, commanding general of Installation Management Command, which Fort Meade falls under, believes partnering is a readiness imperative.
Partnerships are a way to strengthen our communities and mitigate the risks associated with some of our reform efforts, according to Gabram.
He goes on to say that one of the most cost-effective ways for the Army to acquire goods and services is through the use of intergovernmental support agreements.
That’s also Fort Meade’s goal.
But not every partnership has to be a full-fledged IGSA.
Fort Meade’s workforce development initiative, which includes a heavy emphasis on spousal employment, is a success story of the partnership summit.
Active duty military spouse unemployment is approximately 22% and directly affects resilience and combat readiness for active duty service members.
“Spousal employment is a top priority for not only Fort Meade but the Army,” said Col. Nyland. “And there are some amazing opportunities with our neighboring communities and counties to help our spouses get into the workforce.”
Additionally, service members who are transitioning out of the military often face employment challenges due to lack of job search experience, exact match with non-military job requirements and certification requirements.
Fort Meade is forming partnerships with several different entities from Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince Georges County to address these challenges.
During the partnership summit, the workforce development workgroup focused on workforce development capitalized on an already extensive network of human resources professionals providing a forum for information and idea sharing.
“The workforce development workgroup did not identify opportunities directly related to intergovernmental support agreements at this time,” said Nathanial Whitlaw, a plans specialist for Fort Meade. “But it did identify numerous opportunities to enhance mutual support and program sharing and that is the direction we are going in this case.”
Next steps for Fort Meade’s partnership development include meetings between the Fort Meade service owners and public partners who have confirmed they have the capacity to enter into partnerships.
Follow on work groups will meet in the near future to clarify service scope and to develop concept packets which will be submitted to Army higher headquarters for Intergovernmental Support Agreement consideration.
While the partnership summit may be over, the search for these partners is not.
If your municipal or state organization would like to explore a partnership with Fort Meade, contact Nathaniel Whitlaw at 301-677-7911 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.