State Department picks Blackstone for foreign affairs training center

Published 10:57 am Thursday, February 4, 2016

Virginia’s congressional delegation is hailing the decision to build a foreign affairs security training center (FASTC) at Ft. Pickett in Blackstone.

The decision marks a “culmination of (the) delegation’s fight against attempts to derail construction in Blackstone,” the joint statement read.

The estimated cost of the facility may exceed $460 million and would be used to train foreign service personnel to detect surveillance, provide emergency medical care, increase identification skills to recognize improvised explosive devices, participate in firearms training and perform defensive/counterterrorist driving maneuvers, according to the State Department’s website.

“After years of unnecessary delays and hurdles, the brave men and women who serve in our embassies around the world — many of whom call Virginia home — will finally have a dedicated facility to receive the best possible security training before they embark on assignments in high threat countries across the globe, the statement, which was released by Sen. Tim Kaine’s office read. “We are especially proud that such an important facility will be located in Virginia. As four different federal agency evaluations and an independent cost-benefit analysis made clear, only Ft. Pickett meets every requirement for a consolidated Foreign Affairs Security Training Center making it by far the best site — both from a strategic and cost perspective. We are pleased that groundbreaking is finally underway in Nottoway County.”

Despite the site selection over one year ago, the decision met several obstacles, said Amy Dudley, a spokeswoman for Kaine.

“There were a number of congressional hurdles. There was stiff competition from other states and other sites,” she said. “There were a bunch of demands and requests for more cost-benefit analyses and studies … I think the best way to describe it is that there were some congressional hurdles and delays for various reasons that held up the process.”

The FASTC is expected to utilize over 1,500 acres.

For months, members of the Virginia delegation have fought back against attempts to derail the construction of a FASTC at Fort Pickett, according to the release.

“According to an independent cost-benefit-analysis released in December and a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last September, Ft. Pickett is the only site that meets four requirements deemed critical in the selection of a diplomatic security training center, including: consolidation of training venues, proximity to Washington, D.C., exclusive use of the facility for State Department diplomatic security training and use of the facility 24-hours a day and 7-days a week to allow for nighttime training missions.”

The independent analysis found Ft. Pickett to be the lowest-risk, most cost-efficient option — by approximately $90 million — when compared to the next closest alternative.