Congress considering Homestead for SouthCom headquarters
By Eric Kalis
The Homestead Air Reserve Base is being considered by Congress as an alternative site for a new US Southern Command headquarters after plans to build next to the existing complex in Doral were halted last year, Homestead officials say.
SouthCom officials have said the unified command's preference would be to build a 709,000-square-foot headquarters on 40 acres next to their current complex at 3511 NW 91st Ave.
The Homestead complex may have emerged as a contender, however, after staff members of the House Armed Services Committee discreetly visited the site earlier this year, said City Manager Curt Ivy. After city officials found out about the visit, Mr. Ivy went to Washington in March to gauge their interest in Homestead, he said.
"We did not initiate this," Mr. Ivy said Tuesday. "At the time, [committee members] said they were committed to Doral. That could have changed since."
Homestead officials are preparing to put the city's best foot forward in case the Air Reserve Base emerges as a serious contender for the headquarters, Mr. Ivy said.
The main priority for the city is to make sure SouthCom remains in Miami-Dade County, Mr. Ivy said. "We do not want to be in a contest with Doral," he said. "We had already accepted that Doral was going to be the site. Our first concern is for SouthCom to stay in Miami-Dade."
The House committee rejected the Pentagon's proposal last year to lease the Doral headquarters and 40 acres from the state, opting for a scenario in which the Pentagon would own the building and lease only the land from the state.
The Senate Armed Services Committee was to vote Wednesday (5/23) on the Department of Defense's 2008 budget that includes a $237 million appropriation to build a new SouthCom headquarters.
The House committee has approved the budget and the SouthCom funding.
Within its budget report, the House committee lists several conditions to apply to any lease with the state for the headquarters. The conditions include the flexibility for other federal agencies to use the property even if SouthCom no longer needs the site, acquisition of adjacent property if needed to complete construction of the headquarters and application of the same lease terms to any additional properties obtained for the site.
SouthCom's current lease with the state's General Services Administration for the Doral site expires next year.
In a statement, US Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, whose district includes the current headquarters, declined to give a preference between Doral and Homestead. "Our community benefits immensely from SouthCom's continued presence, and I am committed to doing everything in my power to retain it in South Florida permanently," Rep. Diaz-Balart said. "I am encouraged by developments pointing in that direction and will continue to work toward that goal."
Pentagon officials say a new complex is needed to adequately protect the unified command, whose mission is to protect US interests in the Caribbean and Latin America.
SouthCom is one of five unified combatant commands. The joint command is comprised of more than 1,200 military and civilian personnel representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.