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SRMSC Construction / Engineering

(Excerpt from Historic American Engineering Record, HAER No. ND-9)

IV. Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

C. Construction / Engineering

Initially, construction of Safeguard sites was announced for two locales: near the Grand Forks AFB, where groundbreaking took place on 6 April 1970, and at Malmstrom AFB, where construction began in June. However, as a result of the ABM Treaty, only one ABM site was permitted within a U.S. Minuteman field (the other would protect Washington, DC). Therefore, on 27 May 1972, construction at Malmstrom was abandoned by order of the Secretary of Defense. Deployment was to be narrowed further, when on 3 July 1974, the protocol to the treaty limited the U.S. and the USSR to one site only.

By this point, the North Dakota site was 85 percent complete and mostly on schedule. The terminal date of construction, otherwise known as the Beneficial Occupancy Date (BOD), was the major goal of the construction schedule. The BOD had been established as 21 August 1972 for the PARB and 1 January 1973 for the MSCB; both dates were met. Although the signing of the ABM Treaty relieved much of the deadline pressure, the timely fulfillment of these commitments for Grand Forks represented one of the major objectives during the period of transition that followed the treaty.

.....The initial alignment of the PAR radar was completed by August 1973. During this month, the first satellite track and the first radio-star track were successfully accomplished. The Equipment Readiness Date, indicating the completion of the construction phase, was 10 October 1974. Initial operating capability was reached by 1 April 1975. Full Safeguard operational capability was reached on 1 October 1975. The SRMSC was the only operational ABM facility every completed in the United States.

1. Methods

A primary objective of the Safeguard design was the standardization of components and construction details within and between the facilities. Out of a total of 10,098 separate pre-manufactured components, the standardization effort resulted in only 1,703 different makes and models of these components. As a consequence of this standardization effort, a significant portion of the components was purchased by the Government under competitive bidding procedures and furnished to the construction contractor for installation. Several benefits resulted from this approach, the first being initial savings due to direct procurement of components from vendors. A second cost savings came from the reduction in storage of repair parts, training documentation, special tools, and test equipment. Benefits were also realized from increased efficiency and expedited construction and material procurement. Ultimately, the ten year life cycle cost savings were estimated at $38 million.

2. Schedules

The priorities of the Safeguard program dictated a rigorous construction schedule with the shortest possible time allocated for completion of the building shells and installation of their tactical support equipment (air conditioning, electrical lines, cooling system, utilities, etc.). By the BOD, the Weapon System Contractor (WSC) had to be admitted to begin installation of the radars and attendant components. In order to meet the BOD, interim goals had to be on schedule. Intermediate deadlines were most important during the 1970 construction season; the first and second levels of the PARB and MSCB had to be roofed before the onset of severe cold made outside work impossible. The PARB was to be roofed by September 1971 and ready for the WSC in August 1972. The MSCB was to be roofed by October 1971 and ready for the WSC a few months later. Thus, about two and one-half to three years were allowed for the majority of the construction.

The Area Engineer and his staff were responsible for ensuring that construction proceeded on schedule. Colonel Roy Beatty, previously Area Engineer for the Boston Sentinel project (the predecessor to Safeguard), was named Area Engineer for Safeguard. Colonel Beatty did not begin working until after ground breaking, but a temporary area office was opened in Langdon on the day after his appointment. This area office at first occupied one room in the Langdon Masonic Temple, but later expanded to take in all of the basement and the entire first floor. The first Civil Service examinations for staffing the office were administered at the Post Office in Devils Lake, North Dakota, in January 1970, and permanent clerical personnel arrived soon thereafter. The office transferred its operations to the PAR site when an office building was completed there during the summer of 1970.

3. Restrictions

The remoteness of the construction sites and the hostile climate in North Dakota required strict scheduling to ensure that work was completed within the time frame established by the SAFSCOM. Weather extremes ranged from 38oC (100oF) to -40oC (-40oF) with frequent ground blizzards. The result was a very short construction season and mandatory enclosed work areas. Every effort, including sustained two-shift operations, was made to maximize use of long, warm, dry days to complete steel and concrete work as rapidly as possible. A three-shift schedule using artificial lights was employed to hasten the work, and the contractor's work force increased from 340 men at the beginning of June to 1,545 by the first of August.

Another factor greatly affecting Safeguard scheduling was the highway load restrictions in effect at the time. In early spring, during the April/May ground thaw, the North Dakota highways would become increasingly susceptible to damage from heavy construction loads that were being transported to various worksites. To minimize this damage, the state imposed load restrictions for about 60 days. This restraint had to be considered when scheduling construction activity during the second quarter of the year.

4. Materials

An extraordinary amount of material was used in constructing the Safeguard facilities. The PARB, MSCB, and their power plants required over 20,218 m3 (714,000 ft3) of concrete and over 25,000,000 kilograms (27,500 tons) of reinforcing steel. Also used for construction were 3,658 km (2,273 mi) of wire (not including radar or weaponry), 20 million kilograms (44 million pounds) of rebar, 1,207 km (750 mi) of conduit, 64 km (40 mi) of piping, and 621,418 kilograms (685 tons) of duct material.

5. Personnel

The ABM project was the largest single contract award given by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time, resulting in a total project cost of $468 million. A competitive bidding process yielded a low bid of $137,858,850 by Morrison-Knudsen & Associates (M-KA), a team consisting of Morrison-Knudsen, Inc., Peter Kiewit Sons' Company, Fischbach & Moore, Inc., and C.H. Leavell & Co.

The ABM construction work force reached 2,200 by October of 1970 and, at the peak of construction during the summer and fall of 1972, about 3,200 persons were employed. By the end of June 1973, the authorized civilian strength had been reduced to 1,105. The overall support personnel was reduced to 58 percent of the manning level authorized prior to the signing of the ABM Treaty. Construction was completed early in 1974 and the facility was turned over to an operating work force of about 2,000 (of which 600 were military personnel) for a training and testing period. The operating work force was expected to stabilize at about 1,300 workers by mid-1975.