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Front Page » Top Stories » Homestead Rejected As New Base For Southcom

Homestead Rejected As New Base For Southcom

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Written by on May 31, 2007

By Eric Kalis
Homestead’s Air Reserve Base appears to be out of contention as a site for a new US Southern Command headquarters after a Senate committee rejected the possibility last week. Congress instead is insisting that the Pentagon cut a deal with the state for a Doral site.

The Senate Armed Services Committee chose not to include language in the Department of Defense’s budget that would have listed the Homestead base as an alternative site for SouthCom headquarters, city manager Curt Ivy said Tuesday. After discussing whether to directly reference Homestead as a possible site, committee members instead upheld the lease conditions outlined by the House Armed Services Committee this month in the budget, which includes a $237 million appropriation to build new headquarters.

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. in Doral. Congress directs the Pentagon within the budget to continue pursuing a deal with the state for the Doral site.

In its budget report, the House committee lists several conditions to apply to a 50-year uninterrupted 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. The House committee rejected the Pentagon’s proposal last year to lease the new 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.

A spokesman for the state Department of Management Services, which oversaw last year’s bidding process, said the department is not involved with the Pentagon’s plans for a new deal for the Doral site.

The Senate committee snub probably eliminates the Homestead site from consideration, Mr. Ivy said. "It certainly doesn’t improve that option," he said. "It is our understanding that there was an effort to put in language that Homestead could be used as a second site, but it did not get through the committee. If there is not any support from the senators in the area, that doesn’t bode well for Homestead."

Homestead seemed to emerge as a contender after staff members of the House committee discreetly visited the site earlier this year, Mr. Ivy said. After city officials found out about the visit, Mr. Ivy went to Washington in March to gauge their interest in Homestead, he said.

"The city remains a supporter of keeping SouthCom in Miami-Dade County whether it would be in Doral or Homestead," Mr. Ivy said.

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, a pivotal player in bringing SouthCom to Doral in 1997, passed a resolution this month supporting the $237 million appropriation to build a new Doral headquarters, citing SouthCom’s importance to national security and the local military industry, which contributes more than $1.2 billion and 22,000 jobs to the local economy annually.

"The chamber is doing whatever we can to make sure SouthCom stays in Miami-Dade," said Mary Lou Tighe, chairwoman of the chamber’s military-affairs council. "We have always supported the position of most if not all of the commanders at SouthCom that the Doral site is optimal for a headquarters facility. Locally, the issue is out of our hands now. We have to wait and see what Washington does."

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.