BALTIMORE - It was standing room only at a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 28 for the Joint Program Executive Office (JPEO) for Chemical and Biological Defense at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Edgewood, Md.

About 220 guests filled every seat and stood two to three deep at the back of the tent erected for the ceremony at the construction site just off Scully Road.

When completed, the $22.275-million facility will provide 75,000 square feet of chemical-biological defense activity space for 360 workers. They are being consolidated from three current locations in Virginia and Texas. The JPEO's current site is in Alexandria, Va., while the Chemical and Biological Technologies Directorate of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is now at Fort Belvoir, Va. The U.S. Air Force's 649th Aeronautical Systems Squadron, 77th Aeronautical Systems Group will move to Edgewood from Brooks City Base in San Antonio, Texas.

The relocations were ordered by the Base Realignment and Closure 2005 Act, which has set Aberdeen Proving Ground on the track to monumental change.

"This is one more critical milestone in a transformation that is literally changing the landscape of APG for the better," said Col. Andrew B. Nelson, Deputy Garrison Commander for Transformation.

By the summer of 2011, more than 3 million square feet of research, development and administrative space will have been built at Edgewood and Aberdeen, he said.

"The Corps of Engineers is proud to be a partner in the planning and construction of this critical, BRAC-driven element in the growth of our nation's defense capabilities, and the transformation of APG," said Lt. Col. John H. Osborn, Deputy District Engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District.

The Corps awarded the contract to construct the JPEO to Bradley/Nason JV LLC of Wilmington, Del., on Feb. 27. The designer of record of the design-build construction is Ewing Cole of Philadelphia. Project completion is planned for July 2011.

"Our move to Edgewood continues the 649th's tradition of providing advanced chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense capabilities to protect all airmen," said 649th Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ronald S. Jobo. It will strengthen the squadron's collaboration with JPEO and DTRA, and allow their teams to leverage the expertise of the nearby Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, he said.

The collaboration and coordination that will ensue from the cohabitation of the three commands in a modern structure will enhance each one's efforts and strengthen the combat support roles they play for all the military service branches, said Col. Michael O'Keefe, Deputy Director, Chemical and Biological Technologies Directories, DTRA.

"It will strengthen the already robust ties that bind JPEO and DTRA . . . to detect, protect and decontaminate chemical and biological agents, and develop the capabilities to meet the joint needs and rapid response to make the world a safer place for our warfighters."

"One of the things I think about, as I prosecute my role as the JPEO, I think about the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on point every day," said Brig. Gen. Jess A. Scarbrough, Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense.

"Our joint efforts will ensure the warfighter's needs are met," he said.