THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, September 5, 1994 TAG: 9409050031 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B5 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS DATELINE: WILLIAMSBURG LENGTH: Medium: 73 lines
Expansion plans at Camp Peary, a Department of Defense training facility for covert operations, are giving its neighbors a peek at the closed-off compound along the York River.
Camp Peary, a wooded area enclosed with chain-link fences, barbed wire, guards and ``No Trespassing'' signs, has been an enigma along Interstate 64 in York County since it opened in 1952.
Officially, it is home to the Defense Department's Armed Forces Experimental Training Activity. Referred to on area maps as a Navy or a Defense Department installation, Camp Peary for years has been accepted by locals as one of the CIA's main training camps.
Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of southeastern Virginia residents work or have worked there over the years, pumping perhaps millions of dollars into the local economy through its payroll.
Just how many workers and just how much money is unknown. Camp Peary officials won't say.
But they are beginning to talk.
It began earlier this year with a notice by Camp Peary asking for public comment on plans to build a new $5.2 million, 105-room dormitory to complement a new $9 million training school the camp finished building in February 1991.
When a reporter for the Daily Press newspaper in Newport News called for a copy of the related environmental impact report, it was provided.
Past media requests for information usually resulted in referrals to various departments in the Defense Department until a spokesman read the following statement, or something similar:
``The unit there is the Armed Forces Experimental Training Facility. It was established 22 January 1952. Its mission is to provide DoD-designated classified and closed training facilities to develop prototype training programs for military and civilian elements of the federal government.''
The environmental impact report, three-quarters of an inch thick and dated April 1993, offered a few details about the camp:
It has about 9,275 acres of land, of which about 8,000 are unimproved or only partially improved. The remaining acres are either residential or the site of ``intensive military use. There are also five small impoundments at the facility that support a warm-water fishery program.''
It's principal function ``is to serve as a training and exercise facility to the combined Armed Forces. In support of security requirements, the installation requires an austere environment for all Administration and Training Facilities.''
Each room in the new dormitory, which is within walking distance of the new training facility, would be used for individual study and for ``rest and relaxation needs required for modern intensified training.'' The two-story dorm would be at the camp's Powell Lake, close to the York River.
A written request for comment to Camp Peary security chief and spokesman Philip R. Houston elicited the following response:
``We appreciate your interest in Camp Peary, but hope you understand that due to the classified nature of our role in national defense, we cannot be more forthcoming with details of our mission,'' Houston wrote.
The expansion plans may indicate that the camp is safe from the defense department's ongoing base-closing decisions.
In the past five years, the camp has spent or plans to spend, including the new dorm and training facility, more than $15.7 million in new construction or major maintenance.
That includes $943,000 to repave Camp Peary's restricted-access airport and $783,000 for environmental improvements at a landfill, according to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command's Atlantic Division, which oversees all such projects at Camp Peary. by CNB