The United States Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), named for Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, is located in Dahlgren, Virginia, with a geographically separated command, Combat Direction Systems Activity Dam Neck (CDSADN), located in Virginia Beach, VA, in close proximity to the largest fleet concentration area in the Navy. NSWCDD is part of the Naval Surface Warfare Centers under the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). The NSWCDD was initially established October 16, 1918 as a remote extension of Maryland’s Indian Head Proving Ground used for testing naval guns. The Dahlgren site was named the Lower Station, Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground when it first opened. The location on the Potomac River was specifically chosen for the development of a long ballistic test range on the Potomac River, required for the testing of modern, high-powered munitions.
The NSWCDD employs approximately 5,700 scientists & engineers at the Dalhgren organization and more than 350 at CDSADN. Prior to 2007, Panama City Coastal Systems Station located at the Naval Support Activity Panama City was part of Dahlgren Division, but in 2008, it became its own division within the NAVSEA Naval Surface Warfare Center structure.
The physical base where NSWCDD is located became officially known as the Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) in 2003 and the NSWCDD became a tenant. The name NSWCDD or NSWC is still commonly used to refer to the base. The base commander function, however, is no longer a secondary function of the Commander of the NSWCDD. There are a few other major tenant commands on the base such as the Joint Warfare Analysis Center and the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) involved in the training and development for the Aegis Combat System, and training and development for other future shipboard combat systems.
NSASP was previously home to Naval Space Surveillance System Command before that function was transferred to the Air Force in 2004.
The base is recognized by the Census Bureau as a census designated place (CDP), Dahlgren Center. Its population as of the 2010 Census was 599. It is entirely distinct from Dahlgren CDP, to the west.