Army settles on site for national museum

Army officials have finally selected the north post of Fort Belvoir, Va., as the location for a national museum highlighting the service's history.

Army Secretary John McHugh approved the decision last week, according to an announcement.

"In presenting the Army's storied 236-year history, this long-overdue facility will offer the American people a unique opportunity to connect with our soldiers and better understand and appreciate their many and glorious stories," McHugh said in a statement.

This is the culmination of a decades-long decision-making process. In 1983, the Army selected a committee to choose a site. After considering 64 locations, including Arlington Cemetery, Washington Navy Yard and Carlisle, Pa., Fort Belvoir was selected in 2001. The Army then evaluated eight potential sites within Fort Belvoir.

Construction on the museum will begin in 2012, while an opening is set for June 2015. The Army predicts the facility will receive 740,000 visitors annually, with up to 4,800 people visiting on peak days.

Located on a 41-acre site near the Fairfax County Parkway, the museum will feature exhibit halls, a theater, a veterans' hall and an experiential learning center, according to the plans.

Katherine Hammack, Army assistant secretary of installations, energy and environment, said the museum will incorporate green elements such as recycled building materials; water conservation technology; and an environmentally friendly heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

The Army Historical Foundation will provide private funding. Currently, the foundation has raised $60 million, but hopes to raise $200 million through its capital campaign, seeking funds from grants, foundations and individual donors. Retired Army Col. David Fabian, director of communications and public affairs for the foundation, estimates the entire project will cost $300 million, with $100 million covered by the Army. Lockheed Martin Corp. has made an $11 million donation, the largest amount so far.

Currently, the Army is the only branch of the military without a centralized museum. The Air Force has a National Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The Navy National museum is located at the Washington Navy Yard, and the Marine Corps National Museum is at Marine Base Quantico, in Prince William County, Va.

"One thing on the minds of most vets is the statement that it's about time," Fabian said of a national museum dedicated to telling the story of American soldiers.

Kellie Lunney contributed to this report.

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