The Honorable John D. Negroponte
Deputy Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Mr. Deputy Secretary:
I am writing to express my serious concern that our new embassy compound in Iraq is apparently facing significant contractor deficiencies that will delay its opening for weeks or even months past its promised delivery date of September 2007. Mr. Deputy Secretary, as you know, these delays and deficiencies undermine the security and the living standards of the almost 1000 Foreign Service Officers and other embassy staff that will be housed at the Baghdad embassy, and they raise serious concerns about Department of State contracting for new embassy construction in other locations as well.
During the past several months, our Committee has held numerous meetings with the official responsible for this effort, General Charles E. Williams, the head of the Department’s Overseas Building Operations Bureau. In each of these meetings, General Williams assured the Committee that the Baghdad project and its contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Company, would deliver the complex on time.
Despite General Williams’ assurances, it is now apparent that some of the same disturbing problems that were revealed in the embassy’s guard complex, in a cable sent to the Department by Ambassador Crocker in May, are now emerging in the Department’s inspection of the new embassy compound. This and other incidents involving separate embassy construction projects raise concerns about the adequacy of the Department’s management of our overseas building operations.
On August 2nd, I joined the Ranking Minority Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Joseph Biden and Richard Lugar, in ordering a thorough Government Accountability Office review of the State Department’s Overseas Building Operations Bureau’s contract solicitation and award process. I look forward in working with you to address any deficiencies that are revealed in the GAO review, and I encourage you to launch your
own internal review to get to the bottom of any problems that may exist in the way that State Department contracts for new embassy construction are now being managed.
In the meantime, I am requesting that you provide me with information regarding the construction of the new embassy compound in Baghdad. In particular, I would like to have a written response on the following:
What is the current time line for the completion of the embassy compound in Baghdad in view of the failure to meet the September 2007 completion date? When will embassy personnel be able to move to the new housing buildings? When do we expect the new chancery to be open?
What are the major defects that have delayed the opening of the embassy?
What were the problems with the on-location oversight process that should have identified the problems and delays?
Why was the Committee assured as late as August that the Embassy would open on time when these obviously significant defects existed?
Were the defects at the new embassy office complex similar to the defects that were identified for the Guard complex?
As you know, the Guard complex was expected to open in June, but it is now October and the facility is still not open. When do we expect the Guard complex to be opened?
How long will it take to refigure buildings to allow for MNF-I personnel to co-locate with embassy officials? When did it become clear that this would delay occupation of the embassy, since this has not previously been identified as a problem?
Will either the problems with the Guard complex or the embassy office complex require additional funds? If so, when and how much will the Administration request?
I respectfully request a response by October 15, 2007, so that we can maintain our close review of this matter.