Ground was broken Friday for the third and largest phase of the Von Braun Complex on Redstone Arsenal.

The new home of the Missile Defense Agency, located at the corner of Martin and Mills Roads, will accommodate 2,649 people and be the largest single building on Redstone Arsenal.

The 839,873-square foot facility will house 2,248 MDA positions that were realigned from the Washington, D.C. area as a result of base realignment and closure decisions in 2005, as well as 240 positions from Huntsville and 161 Space and Missile Defense Command positions from the Washington, D.C. area.

"This is just the beginning of the next chapter," MDA director Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $221.2 million contract in December 2007 to Archer Western Contractors Ltd., based in Atlanta, for the building's design and construction.

The project will include an auditorium, cafeteria, fitness center, and office space. The first phase should be finished by April 2010, for 800-1,000 people, and the second phase should be done by October 2010.

"Welcome all of you to this major milestone for the Missile Defense Agency, the city of Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley region," Obering told Friday's ceremony attendees assembled in a large tent.

The other speakers included Alabama Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer and SMDC commander Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell.

"This is a great historic day," Folsom said. "I celebrate with you."

Said Shelby, "This is a great legacy for Dr. (Wernher) von Braun. I can't think of anything better."

"It's really an historic thing," Sessions said. "I could not be more excited."
Said Cramer, "We are the home of missile defense."

"The work that is done here at MDA is significant to the entire world," Aderholt said.