Construction is underway on the latest addition to the FBI’s 243-acre campus at Redstone Arsenal. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Innovation Center took place on June 29 and was attended by Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, as well as representatives of the Army and NASA. The Innovation Center is part of a $1 billion, multi-year building expansion that is anticipated to bring about 3,000 jobs to Redstone Arsenal, which is already by far the area’s largest employer.
“The FBI is focusing on future investments on enterprise and applied technology and advanced and specialized training,” says FBI Section Chief Nancy Brown. “A large part of the FBI’s Huntsville expansion strategy is centered on how we can best position the bureau to manage and apply an increasingly broad range of technology throughout the next decade and beyond. FBI Redstone will be at the center of that effort.”
The state-of-the-art, 250,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2024 and will bring multiple technology-focused divisions together to train, conduct cyber threat intelligence analysis and data analytics, and target rapidly changing technological threats. The Innovation Center will house more than 300 personnel, including field office personnel, trainees and partners, and will have the capacity to accommodate up to 400 trainees at a time. The facility will include a kinetic cyber range, a virtual reality classroom, multi-purpose classrooms with enhanced audio/visual capabilities, labs and workspaces. Announcing the groundbreaking in June, the FBI said the new center will significantly enhance the organization’s technical capabilities and provide FBI partners with the opportunity to train and collaborate with new tools and techniques.
On Oct. 20, the bureau, joined by its partners in the U.S. Army, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Drug Enforcement Administration, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the most recently completed addition to its arsenal campus, the Weapons Management Facility. Formerly operated from Quantico, Virginia, the facility is responsible for the administration and sustainment of the FBI’s weapons, ammunition and ballistic protective armor.
“We have many exciting construction projects completed and in flight,” says Brown. “While we anticipate continuing construction over the next five-plus years, one of our largest facilities, the Operations Building, will be operational by the end of next summer.” The Operations Building will accommodate up to 1,300 employees and contractors from nearly a dozen headquarters divisions. The facility includes a multi-purpose space to support conferences and training efforts, as well as a parking garage adjacent to the building.
Brown says other key construction projects include a technology-focused building that will bring together enterprise security and network operations and a health, wellness and resiliency center that will provide campus amenities that support fit-for-duty requirements, including a gym, employee resources and a pavilion.
“Redstone Arsenal is a huge part of our economy, and even outside the arsenal, a lot of our economy is tied to what’s going on at the arsenal,” says Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “There are a lot of programs and operations that mesh well with what the FBI is moving here.”
The FBI has had a presence on the arsenal since 1971, when it opened the Hazardous Devices School (HDS), the only facility in the country that trains and certifies law enforcement bomb technicians. The FBI ran HDS jointly with the Army until 2016, when the bureau assumed primary responsibility. In addition to HDS, the FBI campus is home to the Ballistics Research Facility, completed in the spring of 2019, and the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), a multi-agency organization that coordinates bomb-related evidence and intelligence collection for the U.S. government.
TEDAC relocated from the FBI Laboratory in Quantico to Redstone Arsenal in 2016, and Cape, who has worked at the Chamber of Commerce for 15 years and participated in similar federal relocation processes, including the implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, credits the success of the TEDAC transition for paving the way for the FBI’s continued expansion. “We talk a lot about corporate citizens in the private sector but having federal organizations in your community that really epitomize the kind of people that you want to be here, it’s a really great thing for Huntsville,” she says. “The FBI is such a great partner to have in the community. Their mission, what they stand for and what they do, is so critical to the whole nation, and having the men and women that work for the FBI here living in our community is just a great asset.”
Says the FBI’s Brown, “The decision to relocate programs and jobs to Redstone Arsenal is part of an integrated strategy to organize and structure the FBI for the future.
“Redstone has provided the FBI with almost 1,600 acres of secure land strategically located near other government agencies ripe for partnerships,” she added, “including the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], NASA, Army Materiel Command, Missile Defense Agency, Redstone Test Center, and the Defense Acquisition University, just to name a few. In an ever-evolving threat landscape, the FBI knows our partners — what we are doing with our partners, and what we need to be doing more of, together — could never be more critical to protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”
Katherine MacGilvray is a Huntsville-based freelancer for Business Alabama.
This article appeared in the December 2021 issue of Business Alabama.