Both are important — though, in all respect to Jones’ tenure, we’re extremely interested in knowing what the coming years may hold for this unique part of the Office of Homeland Security.
Jones, the CDP’s superintendent, is retiring from the McClellan-based first-responder training facility at the end of this month. CDP advocates herald his nearly four-year stint in Anniston for several reasons, not the least of which are smart money management and the expansion of critical programs during a time of government cutbacks. We wish Jones well. He’s been good for the CDP.
As for the center itself, the bugaboo — level or increased federal funding — remains an unavoidable topic. It won’t go away. Like virtually all federally funded programs, the CDP has faced the potential of budget cuts in years past. The center’s $62.5 million annual budget has been protected for the last three years. It deserves more than that.
A drastic reduction in funding might make it impossible for Jones’ successor to keep the CDP on the upward climb it has enjoyed the last few years. While it’s reassuring to hear occasionally from U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers that CDP funding is a top priority of his Washington office, the fact remains that federal programs are assured of little in these days of cut-cut-cut government. And, as a community that lost its Army post more than a decade ago, we need no reminder of how cruel these decisions can be.
Needless to say, the CDP is a jewel the United States must protect. We’re proud that it has a local economic impact of nearly $100 million and that it employs hundreds of county, contract and federal workers. More important, however, is the service its instructors provide to the thousands of first-responders and medical personnel who train at McClellan each year.
No other U.S. facility has an entire hospital — the former Fort McClellan hospital — to use for first-responder training. No other U.S. facility allows civilian first-responders to train with live chemical agent. Put simply, the CDP curriculum and training is irreplaceable for the United States in this era of heightened emergency-response concerns.
Anniston is fortunate to have the CDP.
What Jones’ departure highlights is the necessity to keep the center not only functioning, but also moving forward. Until the economy fully rights itself, Washington budget cuts will always loom as a possibility. Protecting that funding — and the CDP’s future — is a task of vital importance.