Which federal agency’s motto is “Freedom’s Front Door”? The U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM)—a Department of Defense (DoD) joint civilian and military organization—is charged with the unique and challenging task of determining the physical, mental and moral qualifications of every potential new member of the nation’s armed services.
Headquartered at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago, Ill., USMEPCOM is a joint service command under the direction of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy and is staffed by representatives of all branches of the armed forces. Its mission is to determine whether applicants are qualified for enlistment, based on standards set by federal law, DoD, and each individual service. The command describes its examination process as evolving “from green walls to red carpet,” reflecting USMEPCOM’s goal of transitioning from herding groups of young people through a maze of examination stations in drab, green-walled military buildings to the more relaxed and personalized treatment of applicants through a combination of individual customer orientation and modern, efficiently designed facilities.
USMEPCOM is split into two sectors, each of which is divided into six battalions. Both the Western Sector and the Eastern Sector headquarters are collocated with the command headquarters. Each battalion is responsible for five or six of the 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) and some of the 427 Military Entrance Test (MET) sites located throughout the United States. All new service members visit an MEPS at least twice: first for screening (including a battery of physical and other tests) and initial processing, then for final processing on the day they ship out for basic training.
According to the USMEPCOM Strategic Plan 2012-2025, the command is aiming to reduce its reliance on fixed-base locations by using extensive virtual processing and other state-of-the-art technologies. It is funded through DoD’s Operation and Maintenance (O& M) Defense-Wide appropriations and through individual service appropriations; its FY 2013 estimated budget for examining alone is $228.8 million, a decrease of $7.2 million from the FY 2012 enacted level of $236 million.
Over the past several years a number of these MEPS were forced to relocate when the existing buildings and sites could not accommodate DoD’s stringent security criteria, particularly the required standoff distance. However, DoD’s recent announcement that it will adopt the Inter-agency Security Committee security standards means that owners of all MEPS facilities now have an excellent opportunity to renew these leases.
Interesting fact number one: USMEPCOM may be the only federal agency that reminds applicants to “wear underclothes” when they visit. Interesting fact number two: MEPS are located in several of the facilities we’ve already profiled here, including the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in Minneapolis, Fort Meade near Baltimore and Federal Center South in Seattle.