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NEWS | March 4, 2008

DoN Awards Contract for Initial Phase of New Walter Reed NMMC Project

By Amy Rohlfs Joint Task Force National Capital Region

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) announced March 4 the award of a design and construction contract required to establish the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda.

This contract was awarded to Clark/Balfour Beatty, Joint Venture, Bethesda in the amount of $641.4 million. NAVFAC will oversee the planning and construction of the new Center. 

"I am confident that the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center will be the crown jewel in an already illustrious military medical system. The most important mission for us is to provide the highest levels of care, comfort and convenience to our wounded heroes so they can focus on the most important mission of all, healing," said Dr. S. Ward Casscells, III, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

The establishment of the WRNMMC on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda was mandated under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC), which recommended the realignment of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the relocation of all tertiary medical services to NNMC, and the renaming of NNMC as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). BRAC law requires all services to be relocated by Sept. 15, 2011.

For the contractor to complete construction in accordance with BRAC legislation while minimizing impacts on ongoing patient care operations at the Bethesda complex, critical activities must be completed well in advance to the start of construction.

The environmental planning process is still ongoing under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and therefore there has been no issuance of a final Record of Decision (ROD). 

To ensure that this outcome of the NEPA process is not prejudiced by contract performance actions, the contract limits the contractor's performance before the ROD as follows: 1) no construction or renovation work; 2) no purchase of long lead materials; 3) design work limited to that necessary to apply for certain approvals from the National Capital Planning Commission and Maryland Historical Trust, and to apply for permits such as those related to storm water management, sediment control, safety, etc.; 4) mobilization work is limited to setting up trailers that will be used to temporarily house hospital personnel who are displaced during construction. 

The preliminary design work, preparatory staging, and permitting efforts under the contract will contribute to a better informed ROD and support the timely completion of the project under BRAC law. No construction or ground breaking, however, will occur until after the ROD is signed. 

The ROD is expected in May 2008. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project was published in December 2007, and the final EIS is scheduled for release in early April 2008. The comment period under NEPA ended Jan. 28, 2008, and the official response to public comments will be included in the final EIS. 

The Department of Defense (DoD) is aware of the increased traffic concerns of the surrounding communities, and continues to consider measures to mitigate traffic impacts that could arise during the period of construction, and work with local civilian leadership.

The WRNMMC is conceptualized to be an approximately 345-bed medical center with the full range of intensive and complex specialty, and subspecialty medical services, including specialized facilities for the most seriously war injured. 

WRNMMC will become the U.S. military's premier tertiary referral center for casualty and beneficiary care, provide postgraduate level education and other training, and serve as a critical medical research center. Concurrent to this regional enhancement will be the construction of a new 120-bed military medical treatment facility at Fort Belvoir. 

"This is the next step in building the world-class medical center at the hub of the nation's premier regional healthcare system," said Rear Adm. John Mateczun, commander, Joint Task Force, Capital Region Medical. "The department intends to meet its obligation to ensure our service members and families receive the highest quality of care. There is nothing more important than taking care of our wounded warriors."

The new WRNMMC medical facility complex will include a mix of new outpatient and inpatient facilities as well as extensive renovations and upgrades to the existing hospital facilities. New circulation pathways, utility tunnels, and a parking structure are also included in the plans. Supporting facilities to be built under a separate contract include non-clinical and Warrior Transition administrative spaces, barracks, a gymnasium and additional parking. 

Approximately 2,200 staff will be added to the Bethesda campus. Most of the new personnel added to the future WRNMMC facility will transfer from other DoD locations. Additionally the Fisher Foundation will be funding the construction of two new Fisher Houses and a National Intrepid Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health Diagnosis, treatment, clinical training, and related services to support wounded veterans and their families.