Mar 23 2007

Senate panel puts BRAC funds back

Huntsville Times

Money for arsenal construction 'keeps us on schedule'

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday restored $3.1 billion in BRAC construction money previously cut from the Pentagon's budget request, including money for 2007 construction on Redstone Arsenal.

The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which provides the Pentagon $92 billion in emergency spending for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, also restores the much-needed BRAC construction money, said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

Redstone Arsenal would get $9.4 million from this bill to build an operations building this year for the Army 2nd Recruiting Brigade that's slated to move here from Fort Gillem near Atlanta, according to Shelby's office.

The bill still must be voted on by the full Senate and passed in the House, but getting the money restored in committee is a huge step, said Joe Ritch, co-chairman of the Tennessee Valley BRAC Committee.

"That gets us on schedule and keeps us on schedule so we'll be able to meet those completion dates and get people moved in the 2009, 2010, 2011 time frame," said Ritch, whose committee is working to recruit workers to North Alabama and southern Tennessee whose jobs will be transferred here through BRAC.

Redstone Arsenal needs about $500 million to accommodate 4,500 jobs expected to come along with the Army Materiel Command, Space & Missile Defense Command and Missile Defense Agency, along with the recruiting command and the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, which manages foreign military sales.

Shelby said in a statement that restoring the BRAC construction money in 2007 "was one of my highest priorities, as it is critical to military readiness and quality of life and the Department of Defense's transformation efforts."

Ritch said he wasn't surprised that Shelby was able to get the money put back in this year's budget. "He always comes through for us," Ritch said.

The bill also includes $8.1 million for the FBI's Hazardous Devices School on Redstone Arsenal. The school will be used to train federal, state and local bomb technicians.