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FBI at Redstone stays on mission amid calls for expansion

HUNTSVILLE — As the FBI prepares to move 5,500 employees to a new full-time headquarters that will replace the aging Hoover building in downtown Washington, Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal remains in the conversation.

A report from the Wall Street Journal today details an effort by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to invest the Bureau’s primary headquarters into “HQ2” on Redstone.

“Jordan wants to see the bureau based at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal, a U.S. Army post where the FBI already has a growing campus that is home to more than 1,000 employees. He plans to submit a legislative rider, a condition placed on a bill, on Tuesday,” the WSJ wrote.

“Although Democrats view the proposal as nothing more than a dig at the FBI, Jordan argues investigators would be less likely to be infected by what he sees as liberal politics if the bureau were based in deep-red Alabama than alongside other government and national-security agencies in and around the nation’s capital.”

While Jordan’s funding contingency to export the headquarters out of the beltway to Redstone Arsenal is a long shot, the FBI continues to maximize its potential here.

“We’re proud of the FBI presence in Huntsville and will support whatever Congress decides is best for the betterment of our country,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

Across 1,600 acres and 19 divisions, the FBI in Huntsville is already at work on operations ranging from cybersecurity, forensics, hazardous devices, counterterrorism, training and research.

FBI Redstone Arsenal building (FBIJobs.gov)

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Sen. Katie Britt (R-Montgomery) last month the bureau’s presence in Huntsville “is a subject I get very excited about.”

“We’re on track now to, I think, have 19 different FBI divisions represented there. It’s already up to about 1,800 employees. I can easily see getting to about 3,000,” Wray said. “In terms of the future, I think I see a couple things. One, I view it as an innovation hub for the FBI.”

He said Quantico will remain the go-to location for basic training, comparing Huntsville to a “graduate level” training destination for new agents and analysts.

“I’ve been to visit there as you said many times, and I’m sure I will visit many more and every time I’m struck by the buzz and the hum of the activity and frankly how excited and enthusiastic all of our people and our partners are there,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) secured $652 million in appropriations for FBI construction at Redstone during his final year in office.

“Growing the FBI’s presence in Huntsville has been a priority of mine for quite some time, and I am proud to have helped bring it to fruition,” Shelby said last year. “This new construction will further solidify Redstone Arsenal’s position as one of the biggest and most powerful bases throughout the country and will build on the extraordinary workforce and sophisticated mission.”

That investment now totals more than $3 billion in operations and construction since the realignment of FBI national assets and capabilities going back to 2017.

“We really look at it like a HQ2,” Paul Abbate, associate deputy director told CNBC in 2019. “It’s really the future of the FBI, and it’s all about technology, innovation, talent and resiliency.”

The FBI’s website advertises Huntsville with a focus on family, “top-rated” schools and extensive STEM opportunities. The agency also promotes a video interview series of FBI employees reflecting on their move to the Rocket City.

“The cost of living here is a lot better than it would be in the D.C., Northern Virginia area,” Stephanie, a hazardous devices specialist with the FBI said. “Taxes aren’t as high. Property taxes aren’t as high. I live in a subdivision and that’s a common residential makeup for this area.

“I feel safe letting my kids ride their bikes here and walk to their friend’s houses. Just knowing that you can get more house for your money and you don’t have to live in a little, skinny three-story townhouse.

“Huntsville’s a bustling kind of city.”

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