Apr 20 2007

Shelby pushes for Redstone bomb training center

Huntsville Times

By SHELBY G. SPIRES

School would teach officers to identify bombs after blasts

Redstone Arsenal is being considered for a one-of-a-kind Justice Department explosives school to train thousands of law enforcement agents every year, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said Thursday.

Shelby wants to make Redstone the home of a $45 million explosives research center to be run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The National Center for Explosives Research would train federal, state and local law enforcement officers on how to identify bombs after an explosion, Shelby told The Times during a phone interview Thursday.

Shelby lobbied for the school on the floor of the Senate Thursday and, later in the day, said he is working to make sure the school is built on Redstone Arsenal.

The school would bring an estimated 3,500 students through Huntsville every year, and it would have 64 "high-paying" ATF jobs, Shelby said.

Shelby wants $10 million for the school in the fiscal year 2008 budget.

"It's all subject to legislative action, but we have support, and I feel good about it," Shelby said. "The director of the ATF has said that it was very important to the future of the ATF and Redstone is an excellent place to put the school.

"They support it and the Department of Homeland Security supports the school and Redstone as the location. I feel good about this" school being approved, Shelby said.

The Justice Department has already allocated $5 million for design work on the school. Shelby serves as ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which oversees the Justice Department budget.

Shelby said the joint Army and FBI Hazardous Devices School would complement the proposed ATF school.

"The ATF is the premier agency for gun crimes, gang activity, arson and explosive-related crimes," Shelby said on the Senate floor Thursday. "I am committed to ensuring that you have the tools and training facilities you require to fulfill your explosives mission."

In mid-2006, Shelby inserted about $30 million for the explosives school. Those funds were slashed from the 2007 budget when the Democrats took over in January.

Shelby said Redstone would be a prime location for the school, and other Justice Department work, because it is a secure military installation and it has test range space already being used by the Army for similar work. Also, Huntsville has a business base that could support the school, he said.