When a delegation of business leaders from northern Alabama made its annual pilgrimage to Washington last year, the members were focused on convincing U.S. government decision-makers not to move defense-related jobs out of the Huntsville area .

Rumor had it at the time that the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, which hosts a large portion of the service’s space and missile defense work, was on the dreaded Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission list that was soon to be released.

So naturally members of the business delegation were pleased –if a bit surprised — when the list of recommended closures came out shortly after their trip and Redstone was not on it. What’s more, the commission recommended moving some 4,700 jobs, a significant portion of which are in missile defense, from Northern Virginia to the Huntsville area.

A year later, when the 175-person delegation again descended on the nation’s capital, their aim was to highlight the fact that the job gains resulting from the BRAC recommendations are turning Huntsville into one of the nation’s “biggest hubs of activity” for defense work, said Michael Ward, vice president for government relations for the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County.

The new jobs include uniformed military personnel, civilians employed by the military and support contractors, Ward said during an April 24 interview here.

Those jobs, which will be located at Redstone Arsenal, will be moving between now and 2011, according to Holly McClain, communications director for the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County.

The 4,700 figure does not include defense contractors that already have begun expanding their Huntsville presence.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems broke ground April 13 on a building in the city’s Cummings Research Park that it plans to occupy next year for work on missile defense and other programs.

Northrop Grumman Corp. began work on a new campus in Cummings Research Park in May 2005 that will house work on programs including the development of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a prototype high-speed missile interceptor.

The military jobs moving to Huntsville are of particular value to the region because of the high percentage of senior-level positions among them, including six general officers, Ward said.

U.S. Army Materiel Command is moving its headquarters — and its four-star general in charge — from Northern Virginia to Huntsville, which will bring it closer to the aviation, missile , space and missile defense programs that make up a large portion of the service’s weapons-procurement budget, said Dan Montgomery, a retired Army brigadier general and head of Huntsville operations for Northrop Grumman Corp.

No firm date has been set yet for that transfer, said Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for Army Materiel Command.

The three-star general in charge of Army Space and Missile Defense Command — now headquartered in Northern Virginia but which already has a large presence at Redstone Arsenal — is also coming, Montgomery said. That move will take place before the end of 2007, according to Bill Congo, a spokesman for Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency also is moving much of its headquarters staff from Northern Virginia to Redstone, but will leave its three-star director inside the Washington Beltway, Montgomery said.

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