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Brainpower: Advanced workforce will play key role in FBI’s success in North Alabama

HUNTSVILLE — Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to express confidence in Madison County’s ability to recruit and produce an advanced workforce for FBI’s expansion plans, and those highly educated and skilled workers will be the key to the agency’s success in the future, according to agency officials.

The local FBI workforce is currently at 800 workers, and the agency anticipates 2,000 workers within the next two years, according to FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jeffery Peterson. Another FBI official stated during a community update last year by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce that 4,000 employees will be housed at Redstone by the end of the decade.

“The Huntsville workforce profile and research capabilities are certainly a key aspect of why the FBI chose to invest at Redstone,” Peterson said. “The talent pool is virtually unsurpassed and provides us with an incredible opportunity for partnerships, recruitment, and synergies.”

Madison County’s workforce boasts one of the highest concentration of engineers in the nation as well a large population whose residents have earned a college degree, well above the national average.

“Our Redstone transition has evolved since its inception and will continue to evolve based upon the requirements to meet the FBI’s mission,” Peterson said. “While new agents and analysts will continue to undergo basic training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, we see Redstone as the FBI’s ‘graduate school’ for advanced training across a wide spectrum of skills and mission sets.”

Peterson added that other parts of the FBI Redstone campus will be more aligned with providing mission support and administrative duties which will be more consistent, traditional functions and provide a hub of support outside the National Capital Region. “The workforce requirements will need to be adaptive as the FBI expands its portfolio and, as always, continues to adapt to emerging threats and technological advancements. There must always be room to adapt—Redstone provides us that ability through our new facilities, the space to expand, and the rich workforce available in the area.”

FBI officials cite Madison County’s high quality of living – good public schools and affordable costs — as key components resulting in a high percentage of employees transferring to Alabama. However, as successful as the FBI has been in getting workers to transfer, the FBI acknowledges there will be a need to recruit additional talent.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville is expected to be a key provider to that talent helping fill an important pipeline for the region’s advanced workforce. The incoming talent at the university is among the most highly qualified among Alabama’s public universities. UAH’s freshman classes consistently scored the highest ACT average with a record 28.5 in 2020. Additional credentials of UAH’s freshman class in 2020 is that 52.1% had a 4.0 grade point average in high school and 39.1% scored 30 or higher on their ACT. This class also had an average 3.88 on their high school GPA.

FBI personnel from around the country have been to campus for a visit of the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s capabilities.

Those visits culminated in FBI officials signing a Memorandum of Understanding with UAH in 2019. That MOU provides for collaboration for workforce development opportunities, technology transfer, exchange of subject matter experts and providing internships, sabbatical and mentoring opportunities.

The agency also signed an MOU with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 2020. This agreement is taking advantage of the U.S. Cyber Camp, a joint venture of the Space & Rocket Center and UAH created in 2017.

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong has been involved in the community’s recruitment of operations to Redstone Arsenal and has made observations about the region’s workforce.

“Huntsville and Madison County have been very successful at creating an advanced workforce,” he commented. “We have experience going back more than a half century in preparing a highly educated workforce that supports the federal agencies at Redstone and our corporate presence in Cummings Research Park.”

FBI executive Peterson said the Bureau has been thankful for the welcome mat that has been thrown out by the local community.

“The Huntsville/Madison County and Redstone communities have provided a warm welcome to the FBI — and we truly appreciate the southern hospitality. Civic and Redstone leadership as well as various other entities have made it easy for the FBI to call Huntsville home,” he stated.

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.