Daria Van Liew, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District, East Campus Integrated Program Office is the recipient of the 2021 Headquarters Lt. Gen. Elvin “Vald” Heiberg, the third, Engineer of the Year Award.
Prior to managing multi-billion complex design and construction projects for high-profile Intelligence stakeholders and leading the District’s COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility mission, Van Liew started her career as a junior engineer in training.
Van Liew began her time with USACE in July 1991, fresh out of college with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland. She was brought on through the Junior Engineer in Training program where she rotated throughout the different divisions within Baltimore District. After completing the program, she was originally assigned to the Washington Aqueduct, which is the Army’s only public utility; however, she loved construction so much, she decided to take an assignment at the Bay Area Office within the Construction Division on Fort Meade, Maryland.
Van Liew’s first position was as a project engineer working on design and construction projects for the Water Reed National Military Medical Center to help ensure continued military medical readiness, such as operating room renovations, a new parking garage, replacement of 19 elevator bays in the main hospital and improvements to an MRI facility.
Following these milestones at Walter Reed, Van Liew also worked on the expansion of the Defense Information School on Fort Meade. DINFOS has trained communicators across the DOD to help their organizations achieve strategic and operational goals. From there, she made a brief career change and left Construction Division to work in the District’s Programs and Project Management Division (PPMD) with a focus on USACE Civil Works efforts.
“Working on the Civil Works side, I was able to see a whole different side of the Corps of Engineers,” said Van Liew. “I had the opportunity to learn how we program and budget projects, and I was able to interact more with our stakeholders.”
Within PPMD, Van Liew worked on the Smith Island Environmental Restoration project in Somerset County, Maryland, for more than four years. This effort entailed a feasibility study to protect and restore an estimated 240 acres of wetlands and 1,944 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation.
“This project was very different than the military construction projects that I was used to,” explained Van Liew. “There was a ton of public involvement, and our team did a great job gaining the trust of the folks who live and work there by being open and transparent.”
Van Liew returned to Construction Division where she served as an area engineer at the Baltimore District Bay Area Office. In this role, she received her Administrative Contracting Officer Warrant (ACO), which allows her to negotiate on behalf of the United States Government.
“My dream job when I first started with USACE was to become the Chief of Construction Division, so when the opportunity came to serve as Deputy Chief, I took it to further my career,” said Van Liew.
Van Liew served as the Deputy Chief for close to nine years where, in addition to the large workload of the Division, her main assignment was to establish the area office at East Campus on Fort Meade. In 2017, previous District Commander Col. Ed Chamberlayne instituted an Integrated Program Office at East Campus. Van Liew realized that leading this office would become her new dream job. She applied and was selected as Chief of the East Campus Integrated Program Office and has served in this position since 2017.
“This is an exciting job. It’s such a large program, with large complex buildings,” said Van Liew. “We are able to solve challenges as a whole collective team to reach our end goal.”
As Chief of the East Campus Integrated Program Office, Van Liew expertly manages a billion-dollar-plus program for an Intelligence Community stakeholder. She is also responsible for coordination among all invested stakeholders to ensure that as each project is brought online, there is no impact to current Intelligence activities and that existing construction projects stay on schedule.
She serves as the senior advisor to and representative of the Baltimore District on all planning, design, construction and program management activities within the Integrated Program Office; and interfaces directly with the District Commander and all of the Intelligence Community Stakeholders on the development of the program’s primary mission, goals and objectives.
When looking back on her career, Van Liew notes the recent Alternate Care Facility (ACF) mission in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a project that challenged her to be a better engineer.
“When COVID hit, I volunteered to lead the Alternate Care Facility task force. Within 24 hours, we were jumping into a chaotic mission,” said Van Liew. “Each state had different requirements and was at different places in the timeline. It was fast paced, and we worked 12–16-hour days, seven days a week.”
Under her leadership, a multi-disciplinary team evaluated a variety of facilities within Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, for potential conversion to a care facility to augment hospital capacity. Each team worked with state emergency management agencies to develop scopes of work for each location. Van Liew personally oversaw the construction of the D.C. Convention Center ACF and turnover to the D.C. government.
“The teamwork and collaboration within the District and with industry partners was an engineering miracle,” she explained. “We didn’t think it was in the realm of possibility to get it completed; but we did it.”
Daria Van Liew was presented with the 2021 Headquarters Lt. Gen. Elvin “Vald” Heiberg, the third, Engineer of the Year Award in November 2021 during a virtual USACE awards ceremony. She is humbled that she was nominated and selected.
“I am very thankful that this organization has provided me with these opportunities,” said Van Liew. “I am a huge believer that this award is not about me personally; everything we do, we do as a team. I have been able to work with the best of the best, who make me look good. I am extremely thankful to all of them.”
Looking forward, Van Liew plans to stay with the East Campus Integrated Program Office and remain involved in the day-to-day execution of projects.
“I feel like I have a lot more to do in this position,” said Van Liew. “So, for now, I’m sticking around.”