The 3,000-worker agency, which does mapping and analysis of satellite photographs and images for the military, is the only major military facility slated to leave Maryland under the Pentagon's proposed shakeup of military bases.
A range of Marylanders, from Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan to U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, are working to keep the Geospatial agency as well -- though they are worried about arousing communities in other states vying for the same federal jobs, said Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Sarbanes.
Aris Melissaratos, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, confirmed that such an effort is under way. But he said, "The reality is it's a very sensitive topic, and we really shouldn't be discussing it."
The Fort Meade expansion -- estimated by state and local officials to exceed 10,000 jobs -- could bolster arguments for moving the Geospatial agency to Anne Arundel County instead of to Fort Belvoir, Va., as proposed by the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The White House is to receive final recommendations in September.
Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski met this week with Geospatial's director and spoke with Anthony J. Principi, the base commissions chairman, a spokeswoman said. The senator also sent Principi a letter outlining her arguments for keeping the agency in Maryland.
"In sum, I believe that Fort Meade's secure, superior facilities make it better suited than Fort Belvoir to accommodate the special needs of a high-tech intelligence facility," Mikulski said in a letter released yesterday and dated May 26.
Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., whose district covers Montgomery County, said, "The first thing we want to look at is whether we can accommodate security concerns at the existing site." If not, a move to Fort Meade would be less disruptive for employees, he said.
Fort Meade was mentioned as a possible home for the agency earlier this year by Col. John W. Ives, retiring commander of the Army base.
In a March interview with The Sun, he pointed to reports that the agency would like to grow, and went on to highlight Fort Meade's advantages as a potential site. He noted that the post is being modernized, with new fiber-optic communications lines and 3,170 new base homes under construction.
"We are easily capable of growing by more than 20,000 people," he said.
Planning officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties are preparing for a huge influx of jobs under the Pentagon's realignment plan, regardless of what happens with the Geospatial agency.
State officials have advised local planners to prepare for at least 10,000 jobs -- and that could prove to be a conservative estimate.
"The numbers we're preparing for are much higher than this" as Fort Meade and the National Security Agency expand, said Anne Arundel County planning director Joseph W. Rutter, Jr. "There will be more announcements over time. This is part of an overall package."