The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $477.5 million contract yesterday to design and build an office and laboratory complex at Aberdeen Proving Ground for the high-tech military jobs to be moved there from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.
The contract award to a Washington-based development team was welcomed by Maryland politicians and by supporters of the proving ground as evidence of the Army's commitment to this component of the sweeping military base closure and realignment ordered by Congress in 2005.
New Jersey politicians have sought congressional action to block the closing of the 90-year-old fort, and a union representing Monmouth workers filed a federal lawsuit. But the Asbury Park Press reported yesterday that the union failed in a bid to get an injunction barring the Army from proceeding with the construction of the Center of Excellence complex at Aberdeen.
The complex would house more than 5,000 civilian employees who are to be transferred to Aberdeen by 2011, when Monmouth is scheduled to close. As the first step in that move, an advance contingent of 32 workers is expected to set up shop at the proving ground this fall.
Two-thirds or more of the Monmouth workers whose jobs are to move to Maryland have indicated in employee surveys that they would resign or retire rather than transfer, and opponents of the consolidation have complained about its costs and potential for disrupting critical work in support of troops fighting overseas. Maryland officials have defended the move, saying that the transition will be smooth and that it will benefit the Army.
Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski hailed the contract award in a statement as a "concrete step" in carrying out the base realignment commission's recommendation.
A timetable remains to be set for groundbreaking and completion of the complex, said Khaalid Walls, spokesman for the Philadelphia district office of the Corps of Engineers, which awarded the contract. The contract went to a joint venture identified as Tompkins-Turner Grunley/Kinsley.
Tompkins Builders Inc., a Washington-based subsidiary of Turner Construction Co., also won a $50 million contract to design and build a new headquarters at Fort Lee, Va., where some of APG's current workers are moving to make room for the Monmouth work force. A Tompkins spokeswoman said she was not authorized to comment.
Wyett H. Colclasure II, president of the Army Alliance, a coalition of local government and business representatives formed to support the proving ground, said the contract award was expected but was still a relief.