FORT MEADE, MD - With shovels in hand under a brilliant sunlit sky, federal, state and county officials, along with business and military personnel, broke ground on the Defense Media Activity\'s new headquarters and production building April 8 on Fort Meade.

The event marked "an important milestone," in the federal agency's history, said David Jackson, DMA director.

Jackson spoke before the groundbreaking ceremony, which was held on the future DMA site, formerly part of the installation's golf course.

Attending the event were Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold along with Fort Meade Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas and several members of the garrison staff, National Security Agency and local government.

Jackson said the creation of the new facility was a step in DMA's "evolution to become a world-class multimedia and service organization."

The DMA was created by the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act. The agency consolidates the Army Soldiers Media Center, Naval Media Center, the Marine Corps News, Air Force News Agency and the American Forces Information Service, Stars and Stripes newspaper, Army Broadcasting Service and the Defense Information School into a single Department of Defense field activity.

The state-of-the art 185,000-square-foot headquarters building is being built by Hensel Phelps Construction Company, which was awarded the $56 million contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month. Construction is slated to begin in May, said Steve Speer, Hensel Phelps vice president.

The facility is scheduled to be completed by May 2011, and more than 650 employees will begin work by August 2011.

"It's an exciting time to be here at Fort Meade," said Ruppersberger, who called the DMA "a more cost effective one-stop shop."

Formally activated last October, DMA is the Department of Defense's direct line of communication for news and information to U.S. forces deployed worldwide. The agency presents news, nformation and entertainment through media outlets, including radio, TV, Internet, print media and emerging media technologies. Millions of service members, Reservists, DoD civilian employees and military retirees and their families in the U.S. and abroad are serviced by the agency.

Brown, chairman of the governor's subcabinet on BRAC, said the commitment of federal, state and local authorities made the day possible. "We're well on our way to ensuring that BRAC is a success," he said.

Thomas pledged the support of the garrison and the Fort Meade community in easing DMA's transition from its three locations in the National Capital Region and San Antonio, Texas.

In addition to DMA, the Defense Information Systems Agency headquarters and Adjudication and Office of Hearing and Appeals Office are scheduled to be located on Fort Meade as a result of BRAC.

Maj. John Raso, deputy district commander of the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said it was both "challenging and exciting" to construct a 21-century home for a 21-century multimedia complex. Raso praised the work of Hensel Phelps in ensuring a solid foundation for DMA to "execute its vital mission."

Speer said his company is committed to meeting the DMA's "expectation of quality and safety" in the construction of the new headquarters and production building.

Noting that DMA will feature the latest innovations in media, information and digital technology, Jackson said, "DMA is no longer just a concept. We are now up and running."