As the military base realignment program shifts into higher gear, the Dept. of Defense has awarded three major contracts, totaling more than $1.1 billion, for Washington, D.C.-area buildings. The projects, all awarded Feb. 29 and announced March 3, include two large buildings at Fort Meade, Md., and an expansion that DOD says will turn the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., a new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The largest of the contracts, a $641.4-million addition to the Bethesda naval hospital, was won by a team of of Clark Construction Group, which is based in Bethesda, and Balfour Beatty Construction, headquartered in Dallas, but with an office in Fairfax, Va. DOD says that Clark-Balfour Beatty will get an initial installment of $109 million.

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which awarded the Bethesda contract, says that environmental planning for the project is still going on and a final Record of Decision under the National Environmental Policy Act has not yet been issued. NAVFAC says that document is expected in May. Until then, NAVFAC says, the contractor team cannot do any construction or renovation or purchase long-lead-time materials, and has limits on design work, on-site mobilization and on what permits it applies for.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round called for closing the existing Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., expanding the naval hospital and shifting some of Walter Reed's operations there. NAVFAC says the new medical center is envisioned as having about 345 beds and include "intensive and complex specialty and subspecialty medical services, including specialized facilities for the most seriously war injured."

Another element of the plan is a 120-bed military community hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va., which is under way.

Hensel Phelps Construction Co.'s Chantilly, Va., office won the other two DOD contracts, both at Fort Meade. The larger of the two is a $369.6-million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers for a new, 1.07-million-square-foot headquarters building for the Defense Information Systems Agency. The Corps also awarded Hensel Phelps a $147.3-million contract to build an administrative and operations center at Fort Meade.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) says that construction of the new facility will take three years. It will house about 4,000 DISA workers who now are in various sites in northern Virginia, plus employees of other DOD offices.