Something Rotten at Fort Meade

August 12, 1993

That stench you detect wafting from western Anne Arundel County isn't coming from a landfill, a dying stream or a smokestack. It's from Fort George G. Meade. Something rotten is going on within the confines of that military installation, and it's high-time local members of Congress pressure the Army to find out what it is.

Army investigators have, in fact, been looking at Fort Meade since 1991 in two separate probes. They have kept silent about what they have found, but correspondence from lawmakers and information from post sources indicate the Army is pursuing allegations of mismanagement, fraud, waste, environmental violations, discrimination and sexual harassment.

Many questions beg to be answered. One of the most puzzling is why Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who was informed of the charges two years ago, has been so seemingly unconcerned. In November 1991, Senator Mikulski received a letter regarding the first investigation from the Army inspector general's office, noting that an inventory had unearthed accounting flaws "possibly involving millions of dollars." This sounds alarming, but Senator Mikulski apparently did nothing.

The Army did a good job of keeping a lid on the second investigation, authorized last year by now-retired Col. Kent D. Menser. Lawmakers seem to have been unaware of it until recently, when several civilian employees approached Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and Rep. Kweisi Mfume, whose Baltimore district doesn't encompass Fort Meade, with serious allegations. The two lawmakers have since asked for a third investigation, to be conducted by the inspector general's office.

We can't help but wonder about the conspicuous absence from this affair of Anne Arundel's congressional representatives, most notably Rep. Steny Hoyer, in whose district sits most of Fort Meade. This is a situation in which Maryland's members of Congress ought to be involved.

A third investigation probably can't hurt, but it makes more sense for lawmakers to first see the hundreds of pages of information the Army has already compiled. In a recent letter, Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Mfume said they were told the Menser report alone contains 80 charges of fraud and mismanagement. It is time for lawmakers to demand to see these investigations for themselves. That seems the logical place to start for them to find out if things at Fort Meade are as bad as they seem.

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