Looking Back on BRAC: Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama

As we’ve reported in numerous postings throughout the past year (click on “BRAC” in the “Categories” to the right), the Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) process has led to the closure of more than 350 military bases—and the shifting of many military operations from one base to another—since 1988. While the Department of Defense (DoD) announced last week week (Monday, August 6) that it will not pursue an additional round of base closures in the continental United States next year, the latest (2005) round of base closings and realignments now wrapping up continues to have a huge impact on DoD property throughout the nation. This is the third piece in our series on individual military installations and how they’re changing as a result of BRAC-related movements.

BRAC moves have brought thousands of jobs to Redstone Arsenal since 2006.  The Arsenal—which was established in 1941 to produce conventional chemical ammunition for World War II—has been at the center of the U.S. Army’s rocket and missile programs for more than 50 years. Werner von Braun and his fellow German rocket experts (who were transferred to Redstone in 1949) continued their work on ballistic missiles there, naming one of their early successes the Redstone rocket. Over the years, Army expertise at Redstone has continued to progress, transforming it into the service’s premier weapon system development center for missiles and helicopters.

Set on 37,910 acres in the heart of the Tennessee Valley in northern Alabama, Redstone Arsenal contains 11.7 million square feet of building space, including state-of-the-art offices, laboratories and classrooms, as well as outdoor test ranges. It remains the center of development, testing and training for the Army’s missile programs, and currently houses the following agencies and facilities:

  • U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM);
  • Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC);
  • Fox Army Health Center;
  • Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA);
  • NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC);
  • DoD’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA);
  • Two Program Executive Offices (for Missiles and Space and for Aviation);
  • Redstone Test Center (RTC);
  • U.S. Army Garrison–Redstone;
  • U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USAMDC/ARSTRAT); and
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC).

The 2005 round of BRAC, which was officially completed in 2011, moved the Ordnance Munitions and Electronic Maintenance School—which had been located at Redstone Arsenal (under a variety of names) for more than 50 years—to Fort Lee, Va., in 2010. However, Redstone gained many more jobs than it lost.  BRAC established an MDA headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., but realigned most of that agency’s mission and mission support activities to Redstone Arsenal, resulting in the transfer of more than 2,400 MDA positions (including military, government and contractor jobs) to Redstone.

That realignment also resulted in a lot of new construction. The MDA funded a $221.2 million contract between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Archer Western Contractors to design and build the third and largest phase of the Von Braun Complex at Redstone Arsenal; construction of the 840,000-square-foot facility began in summer 2008 and was completed last summer (2011). On July 17, 2012, USACE awarded Turner Universal a $51 million contract to design and build the fourth and final phase of the complex, a 225,000-square foot administrative building expected to break ground this fall.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) moved its National Center for Explosives Training and Research into a new headquarters building at Redstone that opened in October 2010 and features 83,500 square feet of classrooms, a mock courtroom, laboratories, audio-video facilities and offices. And on June 25, 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new facility that will house headquarters offices and laboratories for the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), which is relocating to Redstone from Quantico, Va.

In addition to all this new construction, older buildings at Redstone are being upgraded and repositioned. Three structures vacated when the Ordnance Munitions and Electronic Maintenance School relocated to Virginia are now being renovated to create a new campus for LOGSA, which currently is housed in buildings spread throughout Redstone. The interiors are being gutted to create a modern, open floor plan and use the space more efficiently; outdated HVAC equipment is being replaced with new, energy-efficient systems as well as energy-saving windows, lighting, and more.

Von Braun Complex (MDA headquarters) in foreground and Sparkman Center (AMCOM headquarters) in background.