Congressional staffers visit APG
Standing on the ATC Test Track are (left to right) Jennifer Riggs Driban and Deborah, J. Haynie, Justin Hayes and Mary O'Keefe during a visit to APG Feb. 3.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - For a quartet of Maryland congressional staffers, the overview briefings and tour of APG on Monday, Feb. 3, offered a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the installation, as well as insight into why APG is a crucial component of the local economy and landscape. They saw how APG contributes greatly to the Army's defense of the nation and helps pave the way for scientific and technological research and innovation in the private sector.

The intrepid staffers who came to APG for the snowy morning and afternoon sessions were Jennifer Riggs Driban, district director for Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd); Justin Hayes, deputy projects director for Sen. Barbara A. Mikluski (D-Md.); Deborah J. Haynie, senior legislative assistant for Ruppersberger; and Mary O'Keefe, constituent liaison for Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st).

Among the APG leadership in attendance were Acting APG Senior Commander Col. Charles "Chuck" Gibson; Gary Martin, acting director of Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM); APG Garrison Commander Col. Gregory R. McClinton; Army Alliance Inc. President Jill McClune; Jyuji D. Hewitt, deputy director of Research, Development & Engineering Command (RDECOM); Carmen J. Spencer of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD); Dr. Richard Wittstruck, deputy director of the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S); Bryon J. Young, director of the Army Contracting Command-APG (ACC-APG); Joseph D. Wienand, director of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC); CECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Kennis J. Dent; and Mary Woods, deputy director of the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).

Martin welcomed the guests and spoke about APG's concentration on three particular areas of economic growth: workforce development, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and training, and ongoing research and development work at APG South (Edgewood). Leading the way in APG's sustained growth, he said, will be its "communities of excellence," namely, C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), research and development, public health and medical research, testing and evaluation, and CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives).

Alluding to the APG STEM Education and Outreach Center, Martin said the installation's STEM efforts impact approximately 30,000 students and 2,000 teachers. He said many schools and hundreds of volunteers are involved in mentoring programs and scientific competitions provided by APG, with the focus on chemistry, computer science and robotics.

McClinton offered an overview of APG as the third largest employer in Maryland, with upwards of 22,000 employees and 96 supported organizations. He also noted that the installation is home to two airfields and a large Maryland National Guard presence.

In addition, McClinton spoke about the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS), on which APG and local community officials are discussing environmental matters, noise reduction and other issues of mutual concern.

Thomas P. Kuchar, director of the APG Garrison Directorate of Public Works, spoke of the need for demolishing or repurposing about 44 buildings at APG. Because of the chemical and biological nature of some of these facilities, he said APG is looking into the "legislative language" of this mission to obtain $90 million to decommission those buildings (about 500,000 square feet). Some of the buildings are vacant while others are still occupied, Kuchar said.

"There's a lot of old stuff that needs to be going down," said Martin.

Spencer spoke of APG?'s crucial role in the United Nations' mission to destroy Syria's 1,300 tons of chemical weapons. A team of 64 civilians and contractors from APG South (Edgewood) is on a ship and headed to an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean Sea to destroy the chemical warfare stockpile surrendered by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Spencer said the technology to destroy the weapons is the same already in use here at APG, but now is simply being utilized in a mobile fashion. The historic mission could in effect serve as a model to dispose of the world's weapons of mass destruction.

"It's been interesting," Spencer said. "And it wouldn't have happened without [APG South]. This is a good thing for the nation and the world."

The congressional staffers and other attendees were then taken on a tour of the Army Research Laboratory Super Computing Center and on demonstration rides around the Aberdeen Test Center's (ATC) Test Track. After a tour of the Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) from Joseph Ryan, supervisory general engineer at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), the visiting group received briefings from Hewitt on RDECOM's mission as the "go-to organization" for emerging, state-of-the-art Army technological development .

They also heard from Wienand about 3-D printing and other types of innovative development and testing coming out of ECBC that greatly benefit today's Soldier.

"We have 25 years of experience and can apply it to things we haven't even thought of yet," Wienand said. An example he offered is when a Soldier loses an ear in battle, ECBC researchers can take a 3-D print of the Soldier's other ear and create a new one.

Hewitt thanked the staffers and the elected officials they represent for their continued support of APG and the Army. "We wouldn't be where we are without your support," he said, "so thank you."

In addition, ATC Chemist Dr. Melissa Steffen spoke about APG's groundbreaking work on developing renewable energy alternatives and hopes to partner with the private sector to fund initial research and development of low-temperature geo-thermal projects.

Later, Gibson spoke to the group about APG's implementation of training procedures and policies to combat sexual harassment and assault on the installation.

Gibson said the Army's chief of staff last year gave the mandate and said that "we weren't doing too well with sexual assault in the Army. He said, 'We have to fix this, this is my number one priority.' It still is, and we took that guidance. But we can't just train and forget about it."

Gibson said APG has hired teams of sexual assault trainers and victim advocates to sensitize Soldiers and civilians at the installation, as well as implemented intensive leadership training. "We have the right people in the job, and that was the first step," he said. "The second step was making sure folks understood the process, for the Soldier here and on the civilian side."

In small settings and at summits, personnel and leaders have discussed the criteria that constitute sexual harassment and assault, Gibson said. The bottom line is that such behavior will not be tolerated at APG, he said.

"I feel a lot of more comfortable now than I did 10 or 12 months ago, with people knowing who they can go to or call for help," Gibson said. "We're getting a lot better and working very hard at it so people understand the process."

Added Martin: "It's not just the Pentagon talking about how we have to stop this. It's happening at the local level and will continue -- for the right reasons."

The tour and briefings concluded with presentations made by representatives of Harford County Economic Development and the Harford County/Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor about their joint efforts and initiatives with APG?'s leadership and the community at large.

Page last updated Mon February 10th, 2014 at 00:00