SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE — Senior military and civilian officials broke ground on Wednesday for a $65 million headquarters building for the rapidly growing Defense Information Systems Agency, Continental United States.
Construction of the new facility is scheduled to conclude in late 2015, with a ribbon-cutting set for spring 2016.
The nearly 165,000-square-foot structure will be erected on a 20-acre site on the north side of the sprawling air base.
For metro-east leaders worried about the future of Scott -- the St. Louis metro region's largest employer -- in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets, the new building means a dose of good news, according to military officers interviewed.
The new building "is validation of the magnitude of the work that we do," said Army Col. Nora Marcos, the newly installed commander of the Defense Information Systems Agency, Continental United States.
Marcos said the agency has "a global mission."
"And the investment by the government in putting the entire organization under one roof and providing it with a world-class operations center, speaks volumes to their confidence in our ability to do our mission," she said.
The new headquarters will house nearly 900 workers and feature a cafeteria, exercise facilities and 257 miles of wiring and cable.
The Defense Information Systems Agency's workforce consists of personnel from all branches of the military, as well as civilian employees and contractors. The agency's mission focuses on providing information and communications technology to all levels of the national security hierarchy, from the White House, through the Department of Defense and to major combat commands.
The expansion at Scott makes sense, Marcos said.
Scott is "a center of gravity, and obviously for transportation it is a center of gravity," she said. "And those things go hand-in-hand in support of the war fighter."
DISA's mission is growing rapidly, and one of the driving forces behind its growth is "our mission to defend the network," Marcos said. "Defensive cyber-operations are huge, and that has been increasing our mission, and that's where we expect to see future growth."
Burns and McDonnell, of Kansas City, Mo., designed the building, while River City Construction, of Benton, won the contract to build it.
Nearly 100 military and civilian spectators showed up for the groundbreaking ceremony. Marcos charged up the crowd by comparing herself to a football quarterback entering late in the game.
"We're about to put the ball over the goal line," Marcos said. "But the goal line is 24 months away."
One of the featured speakers at Wednesday's groundbreaking was Army Brig. General Randy Taylor, a former DISA commander who had spent years helping plan for the new building, which he called "further proof of how important this mission is, and how important your efforts are on behalf the war fighters."
Taylor alluded to the brisk winds Wednesday afternoon that led to shivering among many in the audience.
"No kidding, I dreamt about this day," he said. "But it was actually 75 degrees in my dream."
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 618-239-2533.