US Embassaurus Baghdad About to Get Even Bigger? Like Super Big? Like LA’s Super Rock?

Mother god of thunder, what wonderful news you bring us!

The US Embassaurus in Baghdad will not just be the biggest and most expensive in the world, it is on its way to becoming super big; like that very big rock in Los Angeles now fondly called, “Levitated Mass, by the artful.

Despite official claims to the contrary of “rightsizing” the mission, this will help ensure that US Embassaurus Baghdad will continue to hold the world’s record as the biggest with the mostest.  Yes, yes, by all means — go bid there during the AIP cycle (is that about now?) while it is still the record holder.  Just so you know that US Embassy London, US Embassy Kabul and US Embassy Islamabad are all vying for that same dubious honor.  Of course, given all accommodation shown by our friends allies frienemies in Pakistan in the construction of the new diplomatic digs there, and given the potential that they would want to shave off the floors above four-five storeys, there is a fighting chance that US Embassy Pakistan will grab the record before all this is over.

Via WaPo’s Walter Pincus:

The State Department is planning to spend up to $115 million to upgrade the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, already its biggest and most expensive in the world, according to pre-solicitation notices published this month.

Remember, it has been 3 1 / 2 years since American diplomats moved into the 104-acre, $700 million facility and only four months after State officials in February talked about trying to cut back the U.S. presence there.

State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) put out a statement Wednesday saying new planning began after it was determined there needed to be “a larger population on the Baghdad Embassy compound, due to the consolidation of satellite diplomatic facilities and property around Baghdad.”
The statement added, “The consolidation takes the overall diplomatic property in Baghdad down by one-third, but increases the personnel working and living on the Embassy compound.”

Here is a quick rundown:

SAQMMA-12-R0271-:  Baghdad, Iraq, New Power Plant, Life Safety and Utility Infrastructure Upgrade Project

Estimated Price Tag: $60 – 80 million

Estimated performance period:  24 months

The project will consist of the following:

  • A central utility power plant consisting of equally sized generators capable of parallel operation
  • Adequate 21-day underground fuel storage
  • A new utility building for the generators and switchgear
  • Compound-wide electrical distribution system
  • Compound-wide site electrical infrastructure
  • Waste heat utilization program
  • Compound-wide fire main replacement and fire water distribution upgrade
  • Compound-wide domestic water system upgrade
  • Compound-wide sanitary sewer system upgrade
  • Compound-wide storm water system upgrade
  • Compound-wide telecommunications system upgrade (telephone, data, CATV)
  • New communication central office building
  • Interface with communication tower (installed by others)

The Embassy compound is approximately 104 acres, located in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq.  The entire compound will be affected by this project.

SAQMMA-12-R0288:  Baghdad, Iraq, Major Rehabilitation Project

Estimated Price Tag: $20 – 35 million. 

Estimated performance period:  11 months

The Major Rehab project will consist of the renovation of an existing annex building and installation of independent support systems.  The Major Rehab will include interior partitions, electrical/telecommunication systems upgrades, extensive mechanical and plumbing systems, fire/life safety installations, commissioning and certification.

The Embassy compound is located in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq. The annex building is a three story structure with a fourth level penthouse.  The area to be renovated includes approximately 334 net square meters and has been laid out to accommodate a Data Hall and Office Area on a 450mm high raised access flooring system

Of course, we just dedicated that US Embassy in Baghdad, remember? So three years after it was officially launched and marked its claim to fame, we already need a rehab and an upgrade?  In a place where we’re supposed to be “rightsizing” our footprint? Is there no end to this?  Yes, yes, it is still much cheaper than when troops were in that country. But that’s like splurging just because there is a fire sale!

This is, of course, the same embassy with so little influence within the Iraqi Government.  Just recently, it took a two-week bureaucratic debate before the GoI released the body of Michael David Copeland because the Iraqis insist on performing an autopsy on his remains. Man, if we can’t even get the Iraqis to compromise on the release of our dead, how can we get them to compromise on something for the living?

The AP reported that Copeland, of Colbert, Okla., moved to Iraq within the last month to take a job on an aviation project with DynCorp International under a State Department contract. His body was found in his bed on June 9, family members said. No foul play was suspected.  Copeland, a former Marine showed no obvious signs of trauma or illness but under Iraqi laws, as in other countries, local authorities must issue a death certificate before releasing a body to survivors outside the country, according to the AP.

It turns out that our largest and most expensive embassy in the world does not have a medical examiner on staff to do autopsies.

That said, must also point out that the US Embassy Barbados does not have a medical examiner on staff either but was able to convinced the host country to released the body of George Gaines shortly after his demise for an autopsy back in the United States.

Imagine if the US Embassy in Baghdad is a “normal” embassy, it would have taken months to get the body of Mr. Copeland released!  Thankfully, we have a large, effective mission at the forefront of our people to people diplomacy in the Middle East, it only took two weeks to secure a dead body.

Domani Spero

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Former FSO William Anthony Gooch: No Mercy for Broken Men?

On May 12, 2012, William Anthony Gooch, 52, was sentenced to 12 years in prison – the maximum he faced under a plea agreement in the Nov. 7, 2010 episode, in which Gooch rammed a Jeep into his estranged wife’s home before setting it ablaze.

What was not widely reported is that he’s a former Foreign Service officer.

In the July/August 1998 issue of State Magazine, he was listed as an “FS Specialist Intake.”  In the February 2003 issue of the same magazine, he was listed under “Foreign Service Retirements”

There is no public catalog of what happened to him after he left the Foreign Service. But apparently in 2005, while visiting Roswell, Ga., Mr. Gooch broke into his brother’s gun safe and ended up in a standoff with police where he begged to be shot.

In 2008, he reportedly shot himself in the chest, narrowly missing his heart. The suicide attempt led to a period of sobriety, and a seeming improvement, according to unnamed relatives cited in local reports.

In August 2009, Mr. Gooch was arrested after a six-hour standoff. This time, he also had a gun and was threatening suicide.

In 2010, El Paso County sheriff’s deputies told local news that Mr. Gooch crashed his car into the Black Forest home of his estranged wife, set the house on fire and then barricaded himself inside.  He was reported to be in critical condition in the burn unit at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, according to hospital officials cited in local reports.

On May 12, 2012, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison – the maximum he faced under a plea agreement in the Nov. 7, 2010 episode.

Colorado Springs’ The Gazette had a write up on the hearing that details the unraveled life of former foreign service officer.  Excerpt below:

According to the family’s account, Gooch served in the Navy and the U.S. Agency for International Development before his 1998 transfer to the State Department, where he worked in the security office.

Within months of accepting the new post, Gooch and his family were assigned to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where tensions were mounting between warring factions, according to his son, Andy Gooch, a private first-class in the Army National Guard and senior at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The six families in their compound were eventually moved out of Kinshasa as violence ramped up, Andy Gooch told the court, describing how they were driven past the dead and wounded on their way to the airport.

His father remained behind to help evacuate other Americans and nongovernmental aid workers, he said.
Gooch told his family that he was detained and beaten by Congolese police during the ensuing choas. He said a fellow Foreign Service officer secured his release.

Later that year the family was sent to Nairobi, Kenya, where according to Andy Gooch’s account, his father helped identify victims in the wake of a 1998 bombing that killed hundreds at a U.S. Embassy.

In Nairobi, the family survived an attempted car jacking when William Gooch shouted for his wife and children to get down while he drove around a road blockade past men armed with AK-47s, Andy Gooch said.

“When I was 10 or 12 years old, I saw things most people don’t see in their whole life,” Andy Gooch said. “If I got that little piece, I can’t imagine what my father saw.”

Said Sotela: “His mental health was deteriorating through the years that he was exposed to that situation.”

Gooch’s career with the State Department ended with a medical discharge in the early 2000s after he suffered a breakdown during an assignment in Kingston, Jamaica, family members said.

According to The Gazette, Mr. Gooch addressed the court in a soft voice, apologized and said he never meant to hurt anyone except himself – by swallowing pills, shooting himself and trying to get “someone else” to shoot him.  “Jumping off a bridge is about my last resort,” he told Judge Greg Werner, before ending his comments with a pledge to take treatment seriously.

I had this story the same week that George Gaines died in Barbados.  I just could not get myself to write about two tragic episodes that same week. The prosecutor in this case, suggested in court that Mr. Gooch exaggerated his experiences in a bid for leniency.  Nothing in the press reports suggested that Mr. Gooch was diagnosed or treated for PTSD. But it says he was medically discharged after he suffered a breakdown in Jamaica.

Domani Spero

SBU Foreign Service 2011 Promotion Statistics Officially Published, Color Specialist Gets an “F”

Remember our blog post about the promotion statistics cable that was classified as SBU?  In March, a Foggy Bottom nightingale informed us that the State Department had released its promotion statistics internally. We have not seen a copy of the cable.  We were told that the promotion stats are now protected by the following authorities:

Privacy Act of 1974 – which is terribly funny because the Privacy Act of 1974 purposely has a line that says “(B) but does not include–    (i) matches performed to produce aggregate statistical data without any personal identifiers;”

So then, somebody wrote here and asked, “How does the Privacy Act apply to a bunch of numbers?” And we had to confess that we actually have no idea — unless — a bunch of numbers are now people?

Three months later, the promotion statistics which was released in an SBU cable was published by State Magazine; this is something that the magazine does every year, by the way. Only this year, it was months late.

Why bother classifying it SBU in the first place? We did an in-depth research and finally got answers!  Simply put, cables are boooring, repeat, boooring.  DGHR wanted to release the promotion statistics in a full color spectrum; except that their Color Specialist used more dark earth tones on the 8-page spread.  What’s with that? It’s summer time, forgodsakes! Next time use something cheerful like Queen Elizabeth fluroescent lime green.  Take our word for it, it’ll get everyone’s attention. Below is the extracted stats from the magazine.

If you are not able to view the document embedded below, click here to read it on ScribD in full screen.

Domani Spero