County Hopes For Homeland Security Base In Homestead
By Shannon Pettypiece
The federal government wants to create homeland security training facilities nationwide, and Miami-Dade County officials want to make part of the former Homestead Air Force Base one of them.
Such a facility, potentially luring hundreds of employees and millions of federal dollars, would be used for federal, local and state homeland security offices and first responders, SWAT teams and others.
"This would bring the federal, state and local agencies together in a facility that would meet the needs of the department in an urban area, and South Florida has an urban area like none other," said Jose Piño, county director of Homeland Security.
US Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Rachel Sunbarger said the government is hearing from a number of senators and governors who want sites in their regions. The department may choose sites by summer’s end, she said.
Ms. Sunbarger said it’s too early to say how many sites there will be, but a spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Graham said she was told there would be 20.
A county study is seeking to determine whether the federally owned base – which includes airplane hangars, security infrastructure, vacant buildings and landing strips – could house the complex. The report is due in mid-September.
"We have the property here with a runway, hangars and other assets where you could even fly in military jets," said Addys Perez, aide to Commissioner Joe Martinez, who proposed the study.
Mr. Martinez said he thinks funds to refit the 250-acre site could come from Homeland Security grants and state money.
"There is a ton of money out there," Ms. Perez said. "It would be great to draw some federal dollars down here."