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FLETC Charleston: History

News
July 15, 2019
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The city of Charleston, South Carolina, is steeped in history, having been established nearly 350 years ago in 1670. While the land the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)-Charleston facility currently resides does not have as deep of historical roots as the city itself, it still has seen its share of history as a long-standing former naval base.

Arial Image of FLETC Charleston Center

Established in 1901 and deactivated in 1995, the Charleston Naval Base, also known as the Naval Shipyard, was a navy shipbuilding and repair facility and served as headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s Sixth District for most of its existence.

World War II saw the Charleston Naval Base reach its highest employment and shipbuilding rate. By 1944, base employment had reached an unprecedented 26,000. Additionally, during the war more than 200 vessels of all sorts were built, with many more vessels being repaired. In the last months of the war, the Charleston facility began laying off its workforce; however, the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 revived the facility once again.

During the Cold War, the base became a center for refitting the Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet, and until the collapse of the Soviet Union remained instrumental in the Navy’s nuclear submarine program.  After 1990, the naval facility became less important. Despite efforts by the state’s congressional delegation, the base was closed in 1995 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closures Act of 1993.

In 1996, the U.S. Border Patrol acquired a portion of the former naval base from the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority for the purpose of a temporary training site.  FLETC subsequently added the Charleston facility to its inventory through legislation in 2003 when the site was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. Current operations began October 1, 2004. 

The portion of the old naval base where the FLETC-Charleston is located is known as a federal enclave, which is a parcel of federal property within a state that is under the "Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States.” The training site consists of 202 acres in the more than 1,600 acres within the old naval base, with the remaining acreage leased or owned by other government entities and private sector businesses.

Co-located on the enclave are a number of other federal agencies: the U.S. Department of State, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard Base Charleston, the SeaHawk Interagency Operations Center, and the U.S. Maritime Administration. Several administrative and operational law enforcement agencies, as well as commercial businesses, are also co-located within the Complex.

The FLETC-Charleston site with its rich and varied history, only adds to its reputation as a facility that gets better with time as it continues to contribute to the Homeland Security mission.

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