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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers taking bids to build complex for Israeli Air Force

By Morgan Hitzig, CNN
November 30, 2012 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The facility, called "site 911," is expected to cost the U.S. $25 million to $100 million
  • Only U.S. construction firms can bid on the contract; the deadline for proposals is Monday
  • The purpose of the site, on an air force base near Tel Aviv, is unclear
  • Construction workers will be subject to stringent security regulations

(CNN) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is receiving bids to build a five-story complex for the Israeli Air Force, or IAF, near Tel Aviv.

The facility, mysteriously dubbed "site 911," will be built under the auspices of the Foreign Military Sales program and is expected to cost the U.S. between $25 million and $100 million, according to a solicitation for bids posted on a U.S. government website.

Only U.S. construction firms are able to bid on this contract, and the deadline for proposals is December 3, according to the notice. The notice, first reported on by The Washington Post, includes structural plans that show the first three underground floors are roughly 41,000 square feet and will include classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3 and shock-resistant doors throughout.

The architectural plans, drawn up by prominent Israeli firm Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, pays close attention to the aesthetics of the design as well as the functional parameters outlined in the solicitation. For example, three picnic tables are planned for the exterior.

Atypical to most Corps of Engineers contracts, the contractor hired will be required to supply mezuzahs, which it describes as parchment inscribed with Torah verses, "for each door or opening exclusive of toilets or shower rooms." Generally, mezuzahs are placed in a case and attached to a door frame as a sign of the Jewish faith.

The construction site, on an established Israeli Air Force base, will be guarded by "an Israeli citizen who served in the IAF" and will be separated from military installations with a solid 6-foot fence. Despite the precautions taken around the base, construction workers will be subject to stringent security regulations. Non-Israeli employees are required to arrive on and exit from the site "in a group only"; "the fenced area shall have one gate only for both entering and exiting the site"; and during work hours, employees are prohibited from leaving the base.

The notice also states that the employment of non-Israeli citizens is forbidden, except those from "the U.S., Canada, Western Europe countries, Poland, Moldavia, Thailand, Philippines, Venezuela, Romania and China." It specifies that the employment of Palestinians is strictly prohibited. In addition, it says, "the Contracting Officer retains all rights to refuse or inhibit employment of any employee."

Site 911 appears to be one of the largest facilities built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains three offices in Israel and has been credited with building a variety of facilities for the Israel Defense Forces over the last few years, including underground hangars for Israeli fighter-bombers and command centers. The purpose of Site 911 remains unclear.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israel Defense Forces did not respond to requests from CNN for comment.

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