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Byrd: Berkeley County ATF facility as 'valuable resource'

January 29, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd said a new federal government operation in Berkeley County which will track people who want to buy explosives is an "enormously valuable law enforcement resource."

At the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Licensing Center, employees will use a database to track explosive materials sold in the United States based on their chemical composition and other relevant information, federal officials said.

As part of the new program, the ATF facility is expected to move from its facility near Falling Waters, W.Va., into an existing building off W.Va. 9 east, officials said.

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The new center is expected to add new jobs, but officials would not speculate earlier this week on how many.

Byrd, D-W.Va., said in a news release Wednesday that the need for such a center has increased dramatically since 9/11.

Because more than 6 billion pounds of explosives are produced annually, Congress has decided that stricter regulation is necessary to prevent explosives from ending up in hands of terrorists, Byrd said.

The Explosives Licensing Center will handle the processing and subsequent issuance or denial of all explosives licenses and permits, Byrd said.

Byrd, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as on the Senate's Homeland Security Appropriations panel, added $4 million to the fiscal year 2004 Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill to establish the new center. Byrd said the legislation was recently signed into law by President Bush.

Byrd applauded the efforts of the ATF facility.

"The ATF in West Virginia is a great success story, not only from a Mountain State perspective but also from a national security viewpoint," Byrd said in the press release. "The men and women at the ATF in Martinsburg are working each day to make the country safer from crime and terrorist attack."

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also helped secure the $4 million. She announced earlier this week that the funding had cleared its final hurdle.

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