GSA and EPA Help Virginia Prepare for New U.S. Department of State FASTC as Construction Begins

In February 2016, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) re-started construction activities for the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at the Fort Pickett Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center and Nottoway Park in Blackstone, VA. DOS is consolidating their hard skills security training facilities currently located in 11 contracted facilities nationwide.

The FASTC will establish a hard skills training center in Nottoway County, VA. Once completed, this facility will be dedicated to providing hard skills security and lifesaving training to the foreign affairs community. The FASTC site will include classrooms, administrative offices, simulation labs; driving tracks, a mock urban environment, firing ranges, explosive ranges, a fitness center, and the infrastructure appropriate for a secure facility. FASTC will consolidate existing dispersed hard skills security training functions into a suitable location that can provide effective, efficient training specifically designed to enable foreign affairs personnel to operate in today’s perilous overseas environment.

This consolidated center will provide training to 10,000 students per year: Diplomatic Security special agents, Foreign Service personnel, employees from other U.S. government agencies assigned to U.S. Embassies and select Foreign Nationals.  

GSA is leading construction for this 1,350 acre campus facility and it will be completed through three construction phases encompassing five design packages. GSA awarded Hensel Phelps of Chantilly, VA, as the construction contractor for Phase 1. FASTC is anticipated to be completed and in operation in March 2019.

FASTC student housing will not be included in the FASTC facility, and students will be transported by shuttles to and from hotels/motels in the local or regional area.  At full operation, a daily average of 600 students will stay in hotels.  Having FASTC trainees stay overnight and eat in the local community as opposed to having housing and food services as part of the FASTC complex at Fort Pickett is expected to result in positive opportunities for commercial and economic development in the region.

The introduction of FASTC adjacent to the town of Blackstone, VA, and the other nearby communities in Nottoway County, VA, is the biggest economic boost to the local area since the 1940s development and operation of Fort Pickett Army National Guard.  With a project the size of FASTC, which represents $412 million in federal investment, GSA’s responsibility to leverage federal real estate actions in ways that both support community development goals and meet client agency needs becomes especially critical.

The GSA Urban Development and Good Neighbor Program’s core mission is to provide the technical, training and outreach resources needed to implement good neighbor principles in GSA business practices. For the FASTC project, GSA is partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Sustainable Communities to provide technical assistance in smart growth and community planning for FASTC and local officials.  The technical assistance is designed to assist Nottoway County and the Town of Blackstone in setting the stage for the type of development that will benefit the economy and quality of life in the communities, as much as supporting DOS operations at FASTC with the need for hotel and dining services and transportation options.  

Together with community planning experts from Renaissance Planning Group (RPG), GSA and EPA recently hosted a three-day workshop engaging a variety of local stakeholders in discussions on the challenges and opportunities for future growth and development.  On April 25, a public community meeting was held focusing on Getting the Growth You Want. Over 100 attendees participated in group exercises, discussing what success looks like for the area and brainstorming on the community’s strengths, challenges and opportunities.  GSA Project Executive Abby Low presented an overview of the FASTC project at this meeting.  During April 26-27, GSA, EPA and the experts from RPG held focused discussions with local officials from the Towns of Blackstone and Crewe, Nottoway County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on where the economic growth could and should be. The attendees participated in exercises that identified preferred growth areas for the community, highlighted the infrastructure needed to support that development, and outlined strategies to collaborate and benefit from increased economic opportunities in the region.

“GSA is required by law and executive order to consult with local communities, and while one of the main goals is to make sure that federal investment benefits communities, from a business perspective, this is also good for the federal government,” said Karen Handsfield of the GSA Urban Development Program. “Our facilities serve our clients better when federal employees and visitors can meet their daily needs in the local neighborhoods and where quality of life in those neighborhoods is high.  The type of technical assistance that our partnership with EPA allowed us to conduct here is more hands-on than we are often able to do, but the opportunities here are tremendous. Thoughtful advanced planning between us and the community makes it more likely that the development will happen in a way that could directly benefit our client agency’s needs and the neighboring communities."

Following the April workshop, next steps for GSA and EPA include providing local officials with the lessons learned during the workshop sessions and a path forward for the local community planning process. Please visit GSA Urban Development and Good Neighbor for more information on this GSA Program.  

This article is part of the Summer issue of the FOCUS newsletter. Please visit the Focus Newsletter page to read our newsletter. To subscribe to FOCUS, complete the online subscription form.

Last Reviewed 2016-07-02