Closed Bases Emerge as Training Centers for Homeland Security

They were built before World War II to boost America's offensive might, but now the priority is defense for some former military bases

``In the South, we have weather where they can train these folks 12 months a year,'' said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. ``In most cases, they're not in urban areas, so they have an ability to have the shooting ranges. I think you'll continue to see that trend.''

In other cases, such as Virginia's Fort Pickett and Louisiana's Camp Beauregard, bases that once trained active military have been transformed into state and National Guard hubs, supplemented with law enforcement training.

Camp Beauregard has been instrumental in U.S. marshal training, and Fort Pickett is home to a training school for Virginia state police, who have access to a mock city for homeland security missions.

Frank Norton, a partner with the Washington firm Hurt, Norton & Associates, which represents communities affected by base realignment and closures, says he expects there will be other former Southern military bases transformed into civilian training centers.

The need is there. The climate is right. The land areas are large but close enough to major urban areas in the mid-Atlantic. And, perhaps most attractive to politicians, the property is already bought.

``Let's face it, trying to buy any land is a very expensive proposition,'' Norton said.