The deals, known as one-stop shops, are to manage the repair and maintenance, facilities management and small capital works of the Ministry of Defence's £14bn estate.
Plans for the contracts, originally valued at between £200m and £300m a year, were first revealed by Defence Estates in autumn 1998 but they have been slow starting.
The first one-stop shop contract was originally due to be unveiled in Scotland. This deal, worth an estimated £200m over five to seven years and covering about 399 sites, was scheduled to be advertised in the European Union's Official Journal last November.
Defence Estates chief executive Ian Andrews put the delays down to limited staff and the complex nature of the region, where there are 20 MOD clients to be consulted. He said: "We have a large initiative and are also involved in running the existing programme and there are only so many resources." There has been growing concern from potential prime contractors at the slow pace of the scheme. One source said: "Any government activity always slips to the right and that costs us money. There is frustration as it has been going for a long time and the first of these large contracts will not be let until 2002." Andrews said there would be a gap of up to nine months between the launch of the Scottish one-stop shop contract and the second deal, to ensure that the new procurement route was working.
Andrews said: "The industry would like us to do it tomorrow but they would also like us to do it right." Andrews confirmed that the number of one-stop shop deals would be reduced from 13 to between six and seven, creating larger deals, as revealed in Building in November.
The final details of the new regions will be announced in March.
Defence Estates has announced the retirement of commercial director Ted Pearson after three years working on prime contracting.
Operations director Alan Threadgold is also leaving. He will move to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency later this year.
Andrews said neither departure represented a lack of commitment to the introduction of the new procurement route.