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The Military’s Importance to the Cumberland Valley


The Cumberland Valley is well known for its scenic wonders and historic streets. Streets that paved the way for America’s earliest won battles. The resolve and impact of the U.S. military in the Valley has only strengthened since the days of the Revolutionary War. Some of the nation’s top military leaders and decision-makers spend time here, working on staying mission-focused. While national security is of most importance, strategic positioning, military resources, workforce, and integrated community all make the impact of the military’s role in the Cumberland Valley that much more robust.

At our February Roundtable, aptly held at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Brigadier General Richard B. Dix, Commander, Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center Susquehanna; Captain Jeffery T. Rathbun, Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity of Mechanicsburg; and Colonel Rick Harney the Director of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, and representing the U.S. Army War College, spoke on issues regarding their base and their impact to the Cumberland Valley.

Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center Susquehanna (DLA)

DLA Susquehanna’s arm reaches several continents, all while being located in the Cumberland Valley.

With 4,200 employees, mostly civilian, DLA provides about a half billion dollars worth of investments through payroll and contracts, that brought into the local community. DLA also has outlets open to the public, including a bowling league and golf course. Contact DLA’s Morale Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) for more information.

DLA’s role is to provide mission support, through warehousing and delivering medical supplies, repair parts, clothing, textiles, and other supplies to military and commercial customers throughout the world. DLA played a crucial role in providing relief during Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Sandy, and most recently, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where they set-up 15 Ebola treatment units within two weeks of notification.

Naval Support Activity of Mechanicsburg (NSA)

Capt. Rathbun compared overseeing NSA of Mechanicsburg to running a little city. The 806 acres of the installation hold more than 150 buildings. NSA of Mechanicsburg is the largest public employer in Cumberland County, providing 4,600 jobs, and is responsible for about $350 million worth of local economic impact and $140 million worth of local contracts. The work force is largely civilian and approximately 97% stay here to live.

Warehousing is the primary objective of NSA, but a growing field on the base is IT support. Although most of the buildings are more than 70 years old, NSA Mechanicsburg is pushing to become environmentally friendly, as the first Mid-Atlantic Navy installation to start a Chesapeake Bay Watershed pollution reduction plan. NSA’s location is strategically placed here in the Cumberland Valley due to proximity of rail and ease to support missions globally.


U.S. Army War College and the Carlisle Barracks

The U.S. Army War College is the oldest military community in the country. Considered the Army’s “think tank”, some of the nation’s top military minds have come through here to support current operations. Each year, there are 1,700 permanent staff employees and more than 400 War College students stationed in the Valley. One of the more interesting aspects of new enrollees is the number of international fellows, who bring their families to live here during their stay. All international fellows are engrained with the culture of the Cumberland Valley, as their goal is to live off-post. The community has a large role in the success of the War College, including job opportunities, emergency personnel, and partnerships with local universities and colleges, including Dickinson, Shippensburg, and Penn State. Salaries and local contracts bring $150 million into the local economy, and 54% of those stationed at the Carlisle Barracks make over $100,000 a year.

U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC)

USAHEC tells the Army story, “One Soldier at Time”, with a mission to provide historical context of the U.S. Army. USAHEC has provided thousands of requests for information annually and continues to collect archives and artifacts of the Army’s storied history. There are 263 direct or indirect employees of the facility, with over $5 million in salaries paid.

USAHEC is also a tremendous tourism attraction. With 182,000 visitors during the last fiscal year and a #1 ranking on TripAdvisor, USAHEC’s presence in the Cumberland Valley is very strong. New exhibits are being planned and facility expansion is on the horizon. The expansion will include additional conference space, cafeteria growth, and more museum space. Notable events include the Army Heritage Days in May (Armed Forces Weekend) and Oktoberfest in October.

Each organization provides a different mission around the globe and enhancements to the local community. Through workforce, local contracts, emergency services, and tourism attractions, the military’s impact on Cumberland Valley is tremendous.

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