History and General Information
Naval Support Facility (NSF) Indian Head is in northwestern Charles County, approximately 25 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. NSF Indian Head includes the main installation on Cornwallis Neck Peninsula and the Stump Neck Annex on Stump Neck Peninsula.1 With its origins in gun and armor testing, NSF Indian Head has expanded to include scientific and response-force missions serving all military branches.
NSF Indian Head was founded as a naval proving ground in 1890 and is the Navy's oldest continuously operating ordnance station.2 In 1921, the installation was designated as the Naval Powder Factory and shifted from a naval gun proving ground into a chemical factory and research laboratory. It continued to experience accelerated growth in the years following as one of the leading war-supply stations for World War II. In addition to the new facilities built at this time, Route 210 was constructed as a
Defense Access Road in 1943.3 Responding to the Korean conflict in the 1950s, its mission once again shifted and the installation began to focus on explosives and propellant production. The Naval Powder Factory was renamed the Naval Propellant Plant in 1958. Facility expansions continued into the 1960s, and reflecting the diversification from propellants to chemistry, engineering, and production contract management - the installation name was again changed, this time in 1966 to the Naval Ordnance Station.
In 1987, the Naval Ordnance Station changed from a production facility to a highly technical engineering support operation. The Naval Sea Systems Command recognized the achievements of the station and reconstituted several acquired agency roles to establish a Center of Excellence: promoting technological excellence in the six specialized fields of energetic chemicals; guns, rockets, and missile propulsion; ordnance devices; explosives; safety and environmental protection; and simulators and training.4 A Center of Excellence designation means the Navy treats the installation as the primary collection of experts in a particular area and will therefore not duplicate those efforts elsewhere.5
Commander, Navy Installations Command, assumed NSF Indian Head installation management, with its stand up as a new Echelon II command, in 2003. As a result, NSF Indian Head became part of Naval District Washington, which includes Navy installations within the National Capital Region. The installation was renamed Naval Support Facility Indian Head with the commissioning of
Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) in 2005. NSASP is responsible for supplying shore installation management (SIM) services to NSF Indian Head and NSF Dahlgren, Virginia. SIM management functions encompass all land, buildings, and support services including personnel support, facility support/public works, public safety, environmental protection and waste management, supply (materials management, property disposal, and warehousing), and public affairs.6
Today, NSF Indian Head is home to five major tenant commands, including the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head Division (IHD) that is designated as a Center for Industrial and Technical Excellence for Energetics and Ordnance systems, depot maintenance, and arsenal activities. NSWC Indian Head also serves as the
DoD Explosive Ordnance Disposal Program Lead.7 The research, development, test, and evaluation work done by NSWC IHD at NSF Indian Head and other locations around the country, as shown in the figure below from the
February 2022 NSWC Command Brief, helps provide the nation's military with information needed to detect and dispose of conventional and unconventional explosive threats. The diverse mix of research and development and operational support programs support the military community, serving the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army worldwide.8
Compatible Use Organizations, Programs, and Resources
For more information on how NSF Indian Head works with surrounding communities to build strong and mutually beneficial relationships, you can explore compatible use organizations, programs, and resources.
Community Resources to Promote Compatibility
Military installations and their host communities have strong and mutually beneficial relationships. They rely on and support one another in terms of jobs, housing, schools, recreation, infrastructure, and social services. Communication, coordination, and partnerships that support compatible community development can create mutually beneficial results to ensure support for warfighters and their families, military operations, and continued community growth and economic development.
A Compatible Use Study, formerly referred to as a Joint Land Use Study, represents a community-driven, cooperative, and strategic planning process to protect and preserve military readiness and defense capabilities, while supporting continued community growth and economic development. The study is based upon technical information the military service provides to describe current military operations. The compatibility analysis results in a series of recommended actions included in an implementation strategy to guide compatible community development in support of continued military operations.
NSF Indian Head Joint Land Use Study (NSF Indian Head JLUS), completed in September 2016, was sponsored by Charles County, with financial support from the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (formerly known as Office of Economic Adjustment), Department of Defense. The JLUS represents a collaborative effort among NSF Indian Head, Charles County, the Town of Indian Head, community groups such as the
Charles County Chamber of Commerce,
Western Charles County Business Association, and the
Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland. It includes an analysis of compatibility factors that may adversely impact the installation and military operations and subsequent recommendations to address the identified concerns.
The JLUS analyzed 16
compatibility factors across the categories of community, operations, safety, and environment. It also assessed trends in population density and demographics, traffic patterns and volume, and other changes occurring in and around the installation. The JLUS examined the impacts of past, current, and future mission operations on surrounding communities and the potential for such community trends to impact military operations. The NSF Indian Head JLUS included over 30 recommendations across five broad strategies to promote land use compatibility and strengthen communication and coordination, including improve interagency coordination, increase awareness of the military mission, coordinate land use planning, partner for land preservation, and develop business and economic opportunities.
Upon completion of the JLUS, Charles County established the
Indian Head JLUS Implementation Workgroup to foster an ongoing communication process to facilitate compatibility between NSF Indian Head's mission and the community and to implement the recommendations included in the JLUS.
Implementation actions of the JLUS recommendations have included the addition the
Federally owned lands - military installations section to the Comprehensive Plan and inclusion of figures to illustrate the
Military Awareness Area for NSF Indian Head. The
Charles County GIS Interactive Map depicts this layer as well. Charles County staff forwards notice of any land use development applications within the Military Awareness Area for NSF Indian Head staff to review and comment. Economic and business growth has also accelerated with relocation of companies like the
US Bomb Technician Association to the area (moved from Denver, Colorado) to be closer to and support the mission at NSF Indian Head.
Counties and municipalities develop comprehensive plans to provide a
long-term vision for their future growth and development. Comprehensive
plans typically include maps showing proposed future land uses and anticipated
transportation and community facilities, and emphasize sustainability, as
well as protection of environmental features, and historical and cultural
While comprehensive plans in Maryland do not require a military element,
many plans for jurisdictions around NSF Indian Head include references to
the installation and consider potential influences on the community. NSF
Indian Head is referenced in the following comprehensive plans:
Charles County Comprehensive Plan (2016)
- The Land Use chapter includes references to NSF Indian Head
as a part of the
federally owned lands component of the land use plan map. The
comprehensive plan acknowledges the completed JLUS and many of the
recommendations, including mapping to illustrate areas of potential
concern when working to implement those recommendations.
Economic Development chapter cites NSF Indian Head as a large
employer Charles County should strive to retain.
- As an action to support the county's ability to attract high-quality
jobs and talent, the comprehensive plan suggests that the interests
of NSF Indian Head be protected and
on/off base expansion be promoted.
Town of Indian Head Comprehensive Plan (2020)
- The Land Use Element contains a section
dedicated to the NSF Indian Head JLUS. The comprehensive plan
notes that the Town of Indian Head supports the findings and conclusions
of the JLUS and is committed to participate in implementing the
Municipal Growth Element (MGE) identifies NSF Indian Head as
a future annexation area and explains that annexation would not
influence installation development. The MGE notes that NSF Indian
Head's water and wastewater supply and treatment systems may supplement
the town's infrastructure.
- NSF Indian Head is considered in the implementation strategies
Community Facilities Policy 8, which states the desire to "ensure
the town has adequate and appropriate facilities and equipment to
conduct its operations efficiently and effectively." Comprehensive
plan recommendations further encourage building public/private funded
facilities to support government activities, particularly those
that can help support the mission of NSF Indian Head (Implementation
Community Facility Policy 9 encourages the town to actively
participate in the joint Department of the Navy/Community Partnership
and pursue opportunities to utilize and improve community facilities.
Housing Element Policy 4 encourages the town to provide adequate
facilities and services necessary to maintain, rehabilitate, and
encourage the development of new housing, including evaluating the
average income of NSF Indian Head employees and encouraging the
development of new housing opportunities that fit their needs.
Economic Development Policy 1 encourages the town to work with
NSF Indian Head to develop a Town Center concept plan for the area
leading to the gate. The goal would be to attract essential services
that meet the needs of citizens, attract tourists, and provide office
and business space to support the needs of NSF Indian Head.
South Potomac Community Relations (COMREL) Council:
The South Potomac Community Relations Council meets quarterly to promote
consistent and efficient two-way communication between Naval Support Activity
(NSA) South Potomac installations, including NSF Indian Head, and the surrounding
communities to identify problems and suggest solutions; to articulate the
effects, roles and activities of NSA South Potomac installations to civilian
communities; to provide a means by which community views and opinions can
be communicated to the Commanding Officer; and to serve as a vehicle for
promoting the achievement of goals and objectives of mutual benefit to the
military and civilian communities. The council is an important conduit for
communications between military and civilian leadership throughout the region.
Meetings of the council alternate between Dahlgren, VA and Indian Head,
Installation Restoration Program (IRP) and Restoration Advisory
Board (RAB): The IRP at NSF Indian Head has been underway for more
than 20 years and addresses contamination from legacy operations before
environmental laws were passed regarding the proper management of hazardous
materials and waste. The DoD, as part of the IRP, required each installation
to establish a RAB to facilitate communications between local communities
and the installation regarding the technical approaches and progress of
contamination removal and abatement.
- Community Involvement Plan: NSF Indian Head published
a Community Involvement Plan (CIP) that outlines how the public can
be involved in ongoing IRP activities. The CIP is designed to keep the
community informed and involved and helps support an understanding of
the community's perspective of the IRP. By setting up channels for communicating
information and providing opportunities for citizens to express concerns
and provide input, the needs of the community are met, while supporting
the technical aspects of the IRP. NSF Indian Head published an online
survey in January 2022 to collect community input to help inform a CIP
The RAB was active in the early stages of the program; however, the worst
of the contamination, from a volume and toxicity standpoint, has been addressed.
Most activities now involve long-term monitoring, operations, and maintenance
of treatment systems. As a result, RAB meetings are less frequent (annually
or less) and are less controversial than in the early days of the cleanup
program when there was little understanding and much public concern about
potential contamination hazards. The RAB served its purpose by effectively
communicating hazards, establishing open dialogue to monitor misconceptions,
and addressing community concerns.
Economic Resources to Promote Compatibility
A jurisdiction's economic development office and support organizations offer a variety of resources that help the community seek out economic growth opportunities and strengthen existing businesses. These resources are particularly valuable for defense communities that are continually looking for ways to attract new business, retain a skilled workforce, and provide resources and opportunities for military families relocating to the area.
NSF Indian Head generates more than 4,771 direct, indirect, and induced jobs in Indian Head and the surrounding region.9 This includes the military, civilian, and contractor employees responsible for carrying out the installation's mission and the employment opportunities generated by local spending on goods and services by the workforce. For a breakdown of employment type by installation, refer to the installation's
economic impact analysis sheet.
According to the FY 2021 Economic Impact of Maryland's Military Installations and the Associated Defense Ecosystem, prepared by the Maryland Department of Commerce, the annual economic output for
NSF Indian Head (sum of direct, indirect, and induced impacts) is $700M, with a total employee compensation of $515M.10 It serves as one of Charles County's largest employers.
County Military Alliance Council (MAC) was founded in 2015 as a not-for-profit
corporation "dedicated to uniting local residents as well as civic and business
leaders to support and advocate for the Town of Indian Head and Naval Support
Facility Indian Head." The MAC focuses on "educating and informing our national,
regional, and local defense stakeholders and the public of the high military
value, unique mission/capabilities, and unmatched intellectual capital within
the county's military facilities." Enhancing, preserving, and supporting
Navy missions are among MAC's priorities.
The MAC helps the Town of Indian Head and the installation reach their
goals by collaborating with the base on events and activities supporting
servicemembers and their families, assisting the mayor in executing the
town's vision plan, and continuously working with both entities to attract
new businesses and defense contractors. The MAC played a vital role in the
development of the Velocity Center, a collaboration between the College
of Southern Maryland and NSF Indian Head. It offers a unique collaborative
learning space that supports workforce and economic development throughout
Southern Maryland. The Navy utilizes the space for conferences, meetings,
and to host professional development activities and events.
Charles County's Economic Development Office works to strengthen economic development throughout the county and offers a variety of programs and services to foster business retention, growth, and new investment for businesses of all sizes. The office partners with many organizations to foster economic stability and growth, including NSF Indian Head, the
Charles County Chamber of Commerce, and the
Maryland Department of Commerce. For example, the office partnered with the College of Southern Maryland, the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Town of Indian Head, and the Charles County Chamber of Commerce to establish a 13,000 sq ft
Velocity Center outside of Naval Support Facility Indian Head to educate, train, expand, and retain local talent and provide professional development in technologies such as cyber security, drones, CAD, etc.
The National Capital Region Transportation
Planning Board (TPB) is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning
Organization (MPO) for the region, playing an important role as the forum
for regional transportation planning. With participation from the District
of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia departments of transportation and the
region's local governments, the TPB prepares intermediate-range and long-range
plans and programs that permit federal transportation funds to flow to metropolitan
Washington. The TPB also works to advance safety, land use coordination,
and to inform the work of decision-makers. The Metropolitan Washington Council
of Governments (COG) houses and staffs the TPB.
The TPB adopts a four-year financial
Transportation Improvement Program, which describes the planned schedule
for distributing federal, state, and local funds for state and local transportation
projects within the region.
1 About Naval Support Facility Indian Head
. Naval District Washington.2-5
Ibid. 6 About Naval Support Activity South Potomac
. Naval District Washington.7 Welcome to Naval Support Facility Indian Head
. Naval District Washington.8
FY 2021 Economic Impact of Maryland's Military Installations and the Associated Defense Ecosystem. Maryland Department of Commerce. FY 2021 Economic Impact of Maryland's Military Installations and the Associated Defense Ecosystem.