Installation History and Profile

Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren is located in central Virginia on the Potomac River. NSF Dahlgren is geographically divided into Mainside and an Explosive Experimental Area (EEA), also known as Pumpkin Neck. Mainside has 2,677 acres, while Pumpkin Neck has 1,641 acres located on a peninsula south of Mainside on the Potomac River.

Dahlgren was established in 1918 as the lower station of Indian Head Proving Ground for testing naval guns. It was named the Lower Station, Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground in honor of Rear Admiral John Adolphus Dahlgren. The location on the Potomac River was specifically chosen for the development of a long over-water range on the Potomac River, required for the testing of modern, high-powered munitions.

In 1932, it became the Navy’s principal proving ground, and its name was changed to the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren. It was responsible for proofing and testing every major naval gun and all ammunitions supplied to the Fleet. Following World War II, the impact of new technology on weapons systems shifted the emphasis from traditional proof and testing functions of weaponry to those of research and development of weapon systems. Electronic firing and targeting systems and the effects of electromagnetic radiation from radio and radar transmitters on ordnance became the emphasis of research conducted here.

During the 1950s, the U.S. Navy produced the first Fleet Ballistic Missile System. Dahlgren pioneered the development of fire control and targeting software for missile-borne strategic nuclear weapons on U.S. Navy submarines. In 1959, the name was changed to the Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, to reflect its transition to a research and development facility. Dahlgren continues to support new Fleet software for firing and targeting ballistic missiles. Since 1960, Dahlgren has been heavily involved with satellite geodesy.

During the 1970s, new ammunition and gun systems were developed at Dahlgren to provide increased safety, accuracy and range for naval guns. Also, during this period, Dahlgren provided comprehensive development and support for Tomahawk Weapon System. In 1977, the name was changed to the Naval Surface Weapons Center. In 1987, Dahlgren’s name was changed from the Naval Surface Weapons Center to the Naval Surface Warfare Center. This name change reflects Dahlgren’s new direction towards developing integrated warfare systems versus weapons components.

In 2003, management of the installation transferred from Naval Sea Systems Command to Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC), established with the sole charter of providing shore installation management services to all Navy activities. All land and buildings at all Navy bases transitioned to this new claimant, creating 16 regional commands within CNIC. At that time, all naval installations within the National Capital Region realigned under Naval District Washington (NDW), and in 2005 Naval Support Activity South Potomac was commissioned as one of six installation management commands within the region. NSASP provides shore installation management for NSF Indian Head, Md., and NSF Dahlgren, Va.

Current supported commands on board NSF Dahlgren include the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Field Activity, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the Center for Surface Combat Systems, the Aegis Training and Readiness Center, the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, and the U.S. Air Force 614th Air Operations Center Detachment 1.

NSF Dahlgren currently employs over 4,600 federal civilian personnel and nearly 400 military personnel. More than 1,800 defense contractor employees also work on the installation supporting various commands and programs. In fiscal year 2014 – from October 2013 through September 2014 – the base generated over $1 billion funneled directly into local economies in the form of payroll dollars and defense contracts. In that accounting period, the combined payroll for federal civilian employees and military personnel alone totaled over $525 million. An additional $482 million in defense contract spending was allocated to companies in the local region encompassing Virginia’s Planning District 16 – which includes Fredericksburg and Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George Counties – and southern Maryland.


Natural Resources

NSF Dahlgren is blessed with a rich diversity of natural resources. The installation environment includes many different types of habitat including pine forests, hardwood forests, mixed forests, old fields, grasslands, and wetlands.

Mainside is bisected by Gambo Creek, a 150-acre tidal marsh. This is where John Wilkes Booth reportedly landed by boat when fleeing Federal troops after he assassinated President Lincoln. A 100-acre black marsh is located on Pumpkin Neck. Over 10 miles of Potomac River and Upper Machodoc Creek shoreline partially define the installation boundary.

The installation’s 4,320 acres support a wealth of animal species. Common game animals include deer, turkey, rabbit, quail, and several species of waterfowl. Red and gray fox, raccoon, opossum, muskrat, beaver, and river otter are commonly found furbearers. Numerous non-game birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish complete the installation wildlife checklist.

The installation offers interested individuals a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities. Those wishing to hunt game may participate in a carefully-regulated hunting program. Seasons and bag limits comply with those set for the Commonwealth.

Two ponds, two tidal creeks, and the Potomac River offer the angler a chance to land largemouth bass, channel catfish, redear sunfish, crappie, white perch and rockfish.

The Natural Resources Program within the Environmental Office administers the management of the installation natural resources. Those seeking more details may contact Dr. Thomas Wray II at (540) 653-4186.

WARNING: Due to the potential for unexploded ordnance and fragmenting metal, access to the installation’s shoreline is prohibited with the exception of hunters and anglers in approved areas.


Vicinity Profile


NSF Dahlgren is located in rural King George County, Va., approximately 55 miles south of Washington, D.C. The total county population in 2010 was estimated at over 23,500. Fredericksburg, Va., with approximately 27,300 residents, is 26 miles west of Dahlgren. Fredericksburg is the center for employment in Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties, Virginia, employing approximately 11,100 people within the city. The greater Fredericksburg region (including the City of Fredericksburg and King George, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Caroline Counties) employs over 244,000 people.

Waldorf, Maryland, located 26 miles northeast of Dahlgren, has approximately 67,750 residents. Waldorf is largely a residential community. As Waldorf has little true industry, many residents commute daily to Andrews Air Force Base and other points near Washington, while others work providing local community public services or small businesses.

Additional military installations in the nearby region include Marine Corps Base Quantico in Prince William County, Va., Ft. A. P. Hill in Caroline County, Va., Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Md. and Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md.