Aug 15 2006

Shelby has big plans for arsenal

The Huntsville Times

By Shelby Spires

Alabama's senior senator has been quietly beefing up the Department of Justice budget over the past couple of years with the hope of adding forensic science, computer analysis and bomb disposal work at Redstone Arsenal.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, has put $88.4 million into the proposed fiscal 2007 budget for two major projects on Redstone for the FBI and for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This money comes on top of $15.1 million for an FBI technology school and $5 million for design work on the ATF project Shelby placed in the fiscal 2006 budget.

"This is a very positive step for Redstone and places new missions on the arsenal," Shelby said Thursday.

Shelby chairs the Senate Commerce Justice and Science subcommittee, which oversees the Justice Department budget.

If approved, the money would help the FBI establish a regional forensics computer laboratory and a forensic science academy, and the ATF set up a bomb school.

The schools are new for the FBI and ATF, and they wouldn't be relocated from other sites. The FBI is part of the Justice Department; the ATF serves under the Treasury Department.

The bomb school would train federal, state and local law enforcement officers. The FBI would use the computer forensics facility to help examine evidence, Shelby said.

"The FBI has nine of these centers around the nation, but not one in the Southeast, and that's the most populated area in the nation," he said. "It's a need the FBI has to fill."

Shelby said Redstone is perfectly suited for "this type of work because of its decades-long relationship with the FBI and its Hazardous Devices School on the arsenal, which has been growing over the past few years."

In 2004, the FBI expanded its operations on Redstone, adding 300 acres and several mock buildings to train students from around the world in ordnance and bomb disposal.

"All of these efforts are very important for dealing with the security of our nation," Shelby said. "It will be good for the Redstone and Huntsville community, but ultimately this is best for the security of our nation."

Shelby said the money is a start, but he had no details on how many jobs the projects could bring or how much more money would be required to complete the work.

"It's premature for that right now, but if more money is needed, then we will work to get what is needed," he said.

Placing the Justice Department work on Redstone will require a lot of construction, said Col. John Olshefski, Redstone Garrison commander. The FBI and ATF are part of Redstone's plans, he said.

Olshefski and Redstone planners have been working out details for the projects.

Army units that are scheduled to leave Redstone as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission decision could provide housing for Justice Department students, Olshefski said.