Mar 27 2014

FBI Director Has High Praise for Redstone

Hazardous Devices School One of the Hidden Gems in this Country Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center a Life-Saver, Will Save Lives for Indefinite Future

WASHINGTON, DC, Thursday, March 27, 2014 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, today at a hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) fiscal year 2015 budget request, questioned FBI Director James Comey on a range of topics, including two critical assets located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.   

Shelby first asked Comey about the importance and needs of the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School, which trains and certifies public safety bomb technicians. 

“One of the hidden gems of this country is the Hazardous Devices School,” Comey said in response.  “It is a vital, basic building block for people who want to become special agent bomb techs or want to become bomb techs in police departments.  What we need to do to make sure we're taking advantage of that gem is be able to offer the advanced training certifications… So we've done a good job at offering the basic training. What we need to find a way to do is to resource that additional training and sophisticated refresher training for those bomb techs.”

Shelby then turned to the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC).  Since 2008, Shelby has fought to secure $132.5 million for TEDAC’s facility at Redstone.  Shelby asked Comey how TEDAC’s mission will adapt to new threats as American forces withdraw from war zones abroad.  Comey was emphatic about the essential security role that TEDAC plays now, and will play into the future:

“TEDAC is a life saver. It has saved lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. It saved lives -- it saves lives all around the world. And I agree with you completely. Iraq and Afghanistan will not signal a drawdown in terrorist's efforts to kill us with these explosive devices.  In fact, what's happened is a lot of the terrorists have learned techniques in the war zones that they're now looking to spread around the world. So we have to stay on top of our game there. We need to continue to make sure we're drawing on the military for their advice and guidance. TEDAC will save lives for the indefinite future because the threat is indefinite.”

Following the hearing, Shelby reacted to Comey’s testimony:

“I was pleased to hear Director Comey recognize the critical role that the Hazardous Devices School and TEDAC play in safeguarding our troops and our country.  He was clear that they will continue to be essential to the FBI’s mission for a long time to come.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to see that the FBI receives the funding necessary to adapt these assets to the evolving threats our nation faces.”   

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A full excerpt of Shelby’s exchange with Comey, provided by Congressional Quarterly, is as follows:

SHELBY:

The Hazardous Devices School -- the FBI's Hazardous Devices School trains and certifies public safety bomb technicians. You know this well. In addition to providing basic training for bomb technicians, the Hazardous Devices School of the bureau is also responsible for providing training in electronic countermeasures and advanced training in priority threat scenarios. 

State and local technicians are the first line of defense in responding to bomb threats working with the bureau. Ensuring that they're aware of the latent trends and are properly trained I think is very important, and this school does a lot of this.

Could you talk just for a few minutes about the training capacity of your Hazardous Devices School today. Specifically, the number of students that it can accommodate, the number of classes offered annually, and the need that exists in terms of recertifying as we evolve the bomb technicians.

And is there an unmet training need in the community? And if so, how can we address it? Because, you know, we've got 300 million people and we do have some threats.

COMEY:

Yes. Thank you, Senator. We have many. One of the hidden gems of this country is the Hazardous Devices School where, as you said Senator, we train all bomb techs in the United States.

And so it's an effort that's a joint federal effort that includes the Department of Defense, which is a key partner in the Hazardous Devices School. And so it is a vital, basic building block for people who want to become special agent bomb techs or want to become bomb techs in police departments.

What we need to do to make sure we're taking advantage of that gem is be able to offer the advanced training certifications. So for people who have gone out and become bomb techs to come back to get refresher training, and to get advanced training on the latest devices and threats.

So we've done a good job at offering the basic training. What we need to find a way to do is to resource that additional training and sophisticated refresher training for those bomb techs.

SHELBY:

You're going to have to get ahead of the terrorists in many ways, are you not? Because if you lag behind technically speaking, we're in a real threat.

COMEY:

Yes, sir. There are smart, evil people laying awake at night trying to find ways to defeat us and to find the next thing that we haven't caught up with. We need to be just as smart and just as wide awake.

SHELBY:

The Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, we called it TEDAC, is the single interagency organization to receive, fully analyze and exploit all terrorist improvised explosive device, or IEDs.

Much of the TEDAC's work has come from Iraq and Afghanistan, as you well know. But as U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, TEDAC's focus will shift. I believe that the IED threat that we face at home and could face in the future makes the work of TEDAC probably more important than ever.

What's the FBI's vision for a post-war TEDAC, and will the skills and capabilities shift with the threat? And if so, what will it look like? Because you've got to be nimble here. And although we've been fortunate and the bureau's done a great job and other law enforcement people, we can't be so smug or secure to think that people can't build those improvised explosive devices here, because they can. What are your thoughts?

COMEY:

That's exactly right, Senator. TEDAC is a life saver. It has saved lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. It saved lives -- it saves lives all around the world. And I agree with you completely. Iraq and Afghanistan will not signal a drawdown in terrorist's efforts to kill us with these explosive devices.

In fact, what's happened is a lot of the terrorists have learned techniques in the war zones that they're now looking to spread around the world. So we have to stay on top of our game there. We need to continue to make sure we're drawing on the military for their advice and guidance. TEDAC will save lives for the indefinite future because the threat is indefinite.

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