HUNTSVILLE, AL (AP) Over the next 12 months, Maj. Gen. Jim Pillsbury will start a program to transform Redstone Arsenal into an Army post that can handle thousands more Pentagon and defense industry workers as they arrive over the next four years.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted in August to relocate the Army Materiel Command and the Space and Missile Defense Command headquarters, plus the bulk of the Missile Defense Agency’s work from the Washington, D.C., area to Redstone.
Those moves are expected to bring approximately 4,700 new workers to the arsenal and perhaps an equal number of support contractors. Approximately 25,000 people work on the arsenal now.
The influx of people will lead to almost $1 billion in government spending over the next decade aimed at improving arsenal roads and building new office and research complexes.
“We have a lot to do preparing for (new work), but I’m confident it will be done,” Pillsbury, commander of the Army Aviation and Missile Command, said. “I don’t want thousands of people to show up for work here one day and Redstone Arsenal not have a place for them to work.”
U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, estimates that building 1.9 million sq. ft. (177,000 sq m) of office and work space — the equivalent of almost 10 Wal-Mart Supercenters — to house the new commands will cost about $420 million.
In addition to more than $400 million for buildings and labs, about $500 million will be needed to build the Patriot Parkway, a highway that city and Army officials hope will ease traffic congestion on Redstone.
The road won’t be completed for several years, Cramer said.
“Even if the first shovel of dirt was turned tomorrow, then it would still be at least seven years, maybe a decade, before the new highway was complete,” he said. “Road projects are a long process.”
But bids for building construction can’t be awarded until Congress passes the fiscal 2007 budget. Given recent history, that probably won’t happen until December.
More people on Redstone would mean longer waits at the gates. Pillsbury wants enhanced security to reduce delays at Redstone’s six active gates, especially the main gates at Rideout Road-Research Park Boulevard and Martin Road.
“What I would like is to improve the technology at the gates, especially the main gates,” he said. “Why do we have to use people to inspect automobiles in the 21st century? We are looking at technologies that would speed up the inspection process.”
Pillsbury expects construction, which has picked up in recent years on Redstone, to continue until at least the end of the decade.
“There’s a lot of building related to the new work that’s coming here,” he said.
The Army Materiel Command and the Army Security Assistance Command headquarters will be built about a mile west of AMCOM’s Sparkman Center on Martin Road. The Space and Missile Defense Command headquarters will be an addition to the Von Braun Office Complex on Martin Road.
The areas near Patton Road, close to the munitions school, will be the office sites for the Army Materiel Command and the Army Security Assistance Command. The 2nd Recruiting Brigade also will be near the munitions school.
Substantial improvements to Redstone Airfield are planned, with construction of a complex of buildings in the works to support the Aviation Technical Test Center. The center is designed to improve helicopter performance and safety.
A new area for helicopter test flights and landings will be built on the southern end of Redstone, and a runway to support unmanned aerial vehicles will be built within a mile of the airfield.
“The sky over Huntsville is going to be alive with the sound of freedom,” Pillsbury said with a grin. “In the next few years, there’s going to be more helicopters and UAVs in the air. It’s really going to be a good place for aviation here.”
Pillsbury expects the new aviation work, along with support jobs related to the Army Materiel Command, will increase civilian defense and aerospace contractor jobs here.
“I don’t see any way around Huntsville growing because of this,” he said. “And this community is seen as being well-positioned” to accommodate the growth.
“Once the word gets out about what a great place (Huntsville) is to live and raise a family, I think there will be people moving down here on their own to find a job,” Pillsbury said.