Apr 28 2008

A missile-defense milestone

Huntsville Times

By Shelby G. Spires

Work begins on final phase of Redstone complex

The technological vision of Dr. Wernher von Braun took another step forward Friday, military and elected leaders said, when construction on the final phase of the Missile Defense Agency's complex of buildings on Redstone Arsenal began during a groundbreaking ceremony.

When completed by early 2010, the $220 million, 800,000-square-foot Von Braun Office Complex will house more than 2,600 employees.

The complex brings together on Redstone almost 5,000 missile-defense employees to work on projects affecting people around the globe, said Missile Defense Agency Director U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering.

"This is the beginning of a critical step to all MDA to expand into Huntsville and expand our effectiveness to the entire nation," Obering said. "Alabama will now be a center of gravity for missile defense."

The office complex consolidates the majority of the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, which serves all branches of the armed forces, on Redstone. The consolidation is part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission decisions, which move some 5,000 federal jobs to Redstone.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said naming the complex after Dr. Wernher von Braun was fitting.

"His spirit is with us here today," Shelby said, "and certainly his vision continues because of the work started here."

Obering said von Braun "once said there are something like 65,000 errors in getting a missile to launch correctly. I'd say there are about twice that in getting a missile to hit another missile in flight."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, said missile defense has become a proven reality with the shoot-down of an ailing American spy satellite in February.

"The world was watching, and we proved to the world that missile defense will work," Sessions told about 500 people during the groundbreaking. "It's all due to much of the good work that goes on here in Huntsville."

Obering said construction planning is on track for the 2011 deadline to move the majority of MDA to Redstone, "and we are ahead of schedule with the relocation of almost 1,000 jobs here already."