HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Senator Doug Jones is on a tour of Alabama. He made stops in Huntsville on Thursday meeting with Redstone Arsenal-based FBI executives and touring the FBI Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), the Missile Defense Agency, and NASA.
Jones said his visit was positive, and he learned a lot.
"I love seeing all that's going on. I'm anxious to learn more," he stated. "This entire Federal complex is just an amazing facility."
Jones' visit is part of a statewide tour, his first since he took office in January. He wanted to highlight his priorities from rural healthcare to defense, infrastructure, and education. He recognized that Redstone Arsenal was a "bulwark" of this community, and an economic driver in the state. He said it was important for him to pay the installation a visit.
"It has been an incredible experience," said Jones of his trip to Redstone. "If people could really see what's happening here, particularly with the Missile command and what's going on with the Army, they would feel very safe and secure about America and where we are as a country."
WHNT News 19 asked Jones how he was feeling about the president's recent criticism of the FBI, following the senator's tour of the TEDAC at Redstone.
Sen. Jones, who worked with the FBI during his career as a US Attorney, stated that he felt criticism of the FBI is unfounded.
"I think the criticisms they're taking right now are very unfortunate. I think it does a huge disservice to the FBI as an institution, but also the thousands of agents," he explained. "I think it's personal. I think it's political. I wish it would stop."
But Jones praised the work the FBI and TEDAC scientists are doing in Huntsville. Not only is the agency is expanding its presence in Huntsville through activities at Redstone Arsenal, but Jones likes what he sees as the agency works to become more efficient.
"That's going to continue," he explained. "It's going to outlive administrations, it's going to outlive senators. It's going to be here."
Guns in Schools
School security and safety is a big topic recently, following a tragic school shooting in Florida. Thursday, Jones called for collaboration in Washington between both parties as they work to address the issue.
An Alabama lawmaker, Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), is pushing for teachers to have access to guns for classroom defense. He proposed a bill in the Alabama Legislature that would allow certified teachers or administrators to arm themselves.
After Jones told media earlier this week that it was "the dumbest idea" he "ever heard" to arm teachers, Ainsworth released a statement saying in part, "I will happily challenge Doug Jones to a public debate on the merits of arming trained and certified teachers and utilizing their Second Amendment constitutional rights as the best way to discourage and mitigate school shootings like the one that occurred in Florida last week."
We asked Jones for his response to Ainsworth's challenge.
"I can talk about it all I want to-- it's just a dumb idea!" he said exasperatedly. "You ask any teacher. they don't want to go packing in a school. It is fraught with peril. You can debate it, you can talk about it, but that's just a purely political statement from someone running for office."
Jones said he has heard politicians talk about banning certain types of guns, and he thinks every kind of solution should be on the table for discussion.
Defense and Space Exploration
As the new senator learns about North Alabama on the tour, he said he will take these lessons with him to Washington.
"I think the biggest thing for the military and NASA and any contractors is to try to do a budget process that's long-term," he stated. "That's the one thing I've criticized from the day I got in the Senate is the short-term continuing resolutions."
Jones said he changed his mind Thursday about the future of space exploration. He admitted to being critical of commercial spaceflight. Now, he said he understands its value.
"It's time perhaps to think about more commercial operations with the ISS," he said. "When that was first talked about a few weeks ago, I had a reaction that was not good. I don't like to privatize the government."
Jones said someone told him Thursday that NASA has gone as far as it can with low-earth orbit exploration. It helped convince him to change his opinion.
"We need to start commercializing the Space Station a little bit to utilize the scarce resources that we have to go farther, to go into deep space," he commented.
Jones also complimented the Space Launch System program, based at NASA Marshall.