HUNTSVILLE – Redstone Arsenal is the economic engine that powers roughly half of the Huntsville metro economy with agencies managing more than $50 billion in federal spending.
Perhaps nothing on the Arsenal elicits more curiosity than the recent expansion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its sprawling new campus.
Deputy Assistant Director Wendell “Drew” Watts gave a rare look into the FBI campus and its objectives on Redstone Arsenal during the Thursday’s Redstone Update. The annual event was at the Von Braun Center and hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.
“Already employees at Redstone can be found conducting forensic analysis, sorting data from critical investigations, and protecting headquarters from cyber-attacks,” he said. “They are the center of the bureau’s technological advancement in data and analytics, which helps us track, develop, and retain talent.”
He said the facilities include two campuses, each offering capabilities to ensure agents, FBI intelligence analysts, professional staff and contract workforce have the necessary tools and techniques to be successful.
“We want to position the FBI to harness, deploy, and when necessary, mitigate and defeat threats, which will continue to come in the form of broad range technologies in the decades to come,” Watts said.
Watts said the director has laid out four objectives for the Redstone campus.
- The first is a whole of government capability needed to exploit terrorists, improvised explosive devices, and to train bomb technicians at the Counter-IED Center of Excellence.
“This has already been achieved since last summer marked the 50th anniversary of Hazardous Device School, a world-class training facility that remains the single source of certification training for all federal, state, local, and public safety bomb technology,” he said. “That means all the bomb technicians in the United States come through training here at Redstone Arsenal, on how to keep our communities safe.”
He said the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytics Center team, which started in a garage in Quantico, Va., and moved to Redstone in 2015, continues to help bomb experts exploit information and intelligence gleaned from analyzing IEDs faster and more efficiently.
- The second objective is strategic realignment, the agility to align FBI national assets and capabilities to enhance mission resiliency and continuity of operations.
“It is in full force with 1,500 personnel on the ground currently, with an additional 500 on track to arrive by next summer,” Watts said. “We are very excited about staff relocating to this area. Huntsville is a vital part of the FBI’s workforce, which is aimed at putting the right employees in the right positions.”
- The third objective of the Redstone facility is Enterprise and Applied Technology in which next-generation technicians and analytics capability must address emerging threats.
“It is focused on future investments and a large part of the Huntsville expansion strategy is centered on how we can best position the bureau to manage and apply an increasing broad range of technology throughout the next decade and beyond.”
- The fourth objective is Advanced and Specialized Training, investing in knowledge, skills and talent for 21st century challenges.
“To provide better scope, Redstone has provided the FBI with 11,000 acres of secure land, strategically located near other government agencies, which lends itself to a strong and resilient partnership with entities like NASA, the Army Materiel Command, Missile Defense Agency and others, all in close proximity to Redstone,” he said. “It is almost like a collision center that allows us to come together for collaboration, continuity, and conversations more often.”
Watts said, that when all is said and done, Redstone’s FBI campus will be a robust campus enabling the FBI to address the ever-changing threat environment.
He also said the north campus is already booming.
“We are building a technology district that will be the epicenter of FBI technology infrastructure and tech talent development and tools in a campus environments,” Watts said.
Building 1, which opened recently, is a world-class operation facility, which is a full act ship and investment in the FBI’s strategic realignment initiative, he said.
“It is the largest building on site and currently home to 1,300 personnel, plus, we are building a modern training space that will enable a variety of training functions,” Watts said. “Those include technology-focused training related to cyber and data exploitation.”
Furthermore, he pointed to numerous ghost-out buildings designated for growth 10 to 20 years out.
“We are building on flexibility, as we face an ever-evolving threat landscape.”