More than 350 businessmen turned out today looking for a piece of the action in the next giant Middle East construction project.
After years of construction bonanzas in Arab nations and Iran, the new billion-dollar project will be the two air bases the United States is committed to build for Israel under the terms of the Israel-Egypt treaty worked out at Camp David last September.
Maj. Gen. James A. Johnson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers invited would-be contractors to a briefing today to hear an outline of the mammoth project, although many of the construction details have not been clearly defined.
The bases must be in operation in three years under the terms of the treaty, although that is roughly half the normal construction time. Johnson said.
They are being given to Israel to replace two bases in the Sinai which Israel built on land that the treaty returns to Egypt.
Johnson told the businessmen that the Pentagon has requested the highest priority-DX Brickbat-for the project. DX Brickbat is a rarely-used prority that gives the government theright to preempt any materials from any production line or any means oftransport. It is available at the president's discretion to meet emergency situations.
The construction of one of the bases, Johnson said, will require moving about 4 million cubic meters of earth. About 1.5 million cubic meters will have to be moved at the other site, he said.
eachof the airfields will need about 330,000 cubic meters of gravel and other materials and about 100,000 cubic meters of both concrete and asphalt the General said.
Many of the businessman ezpressed concern that theymight be disqualified from the project because of construction they aredoing in the Arab world.
Johnson said that the prime contractors for each base and for management assistance to the corps of engineers must becompanies that are wholly american-owned, but that they may subcontractwith Non-American companies as long as those companies are based in nations that have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Companies will not be barred simply because they are working in Arab countries, he said, but their proposals would be very carefully examined. "We will not pick someboby who is anathema to Israel," Johnson said.
The Corps of Engineers also doesn't want to interfere with other construction projects in the middle east and will not permit the direct transfer of resources from other sites except in special circumstances.
No one is certain how much theair bases will cost, but defense secretary Harold Brown called them a$1 billion project in recent testimony to the senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Because of the limited time contractors will have to make the bases operational, the contracts are being let on an accelerated schedule. Proposals for the managemant assistance contract must be filed by Tuesday, and the Corps of Engineeers will then interveiw the top three candidates and award the contract May 4.
The Corps requires proposals by contractors fot the design and construction of the air bases May 1 and will interview the top five before making the award May 15.
The contractors will be paid on a cost-plus-fixed-fee basis. Johnson said the fee had not been determined and would be negotiated.
Johnson said that initially the pentagon had thought of duplicating the Sinai bases in the negev, but that because of new technological developments, a large part of the new bases will be newly disigned.
Johnson also said that because Israelo construction resources are fully committed elsewhere, only limited Israeli manpower and resources will be avaliable to the winning contractors.
Israel's ports will be prepared to expedite shipments of building materials and Johnson said the ports and available air bases are adequate to handle flow so that new ports will not have to be built as they were in Saudi Arabia when it began a massive construction program.