Southcom headquarters looking to expand with military housing

The commander of U.S. Southern Command operations has implied that there has been exploration of expanding its office-style military headquarters to function more like a traditional U.S. military base. This would include incorporating a gated housing development.

The Miami Herald reported that Marine Gen. John F. Kelly briefly hinted about the housing ambitions last month while at the Senate. The Southcom military outpost currently oversees U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The decision to explore the possibility of real base-style housing comes at a time when Congress has cut troops’ housing allowances. The start of the process has already begun by Kelly working out details to acquire a portion of FAA land, even before obtaining Congressional approval for the housing project.

The FAA has stated that the Army has asked to buy a portion of its 162 acres of land in Doral. The property is inside a pasture across the street from the military headquarters and is valued at $350,000 per acre.

Retired Army Infantry Col. David Bird has stated that the proposed gated community could have between 74 to 250 houses. He said troops could move in somewhere between three to five years from now using 50 to 75 acres of the FAA land.

FAA officials would not elaborate on the details of the proposed land use but did say that “environmental issues would be evaluated before the property could be sold.” They also added that currently the land is under an agricultural lease in which the FAA gets “$500 per year for use of the land” in which cows now graze.

According to the Miami Herald, the majority of Southcom’s 1,300 troop and civilians lease or purchase properties between Broward and Miami-Dade counties. They currently use government housing allowances to help pay their rent.

In 2009, a feasibility study recommended against building 88 homes for Southcom troops. It found that “there was an abundant supply of housing” in the local economy available.

Right now the Pentagon rents five homes for senior officers. One of the homes is occupied by Kelly and it is reported that the Department of Defense leases it for over $106,000 per year. If the new housing is built, the five senior officers would live in it as well.

Bird, who is responsible for troops’ well-being, would not predict how much the new base housing would cost. However, he did note that potential residents could be pulled from both the 850 service members working out of Southcom and from the 1,900 active duty forces across South Florida.

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