@StateDept Prepares For Interim $20M+ US Embassy Jerusalem Arnona Project

Posted: 12:57 am ET

 

There was a curious story over the weekend about the new U.S. Embassy Jerusalem where POTUS claimed  to have saved millions and millions of dollars for the construction of the new embassy:

Trump has told this story before. In early March, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump made the same claim about being presented with a $1 billion bill that he rejected. At that point, Trump said the actual cost would be $250,000, not $400,000.

Second, Trump’s depiction of what’s happening appears to glamorize the reality. To speed the process of transitioning from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the United States will be upgrading an existing facility in Jerusalem. The New York Times reported in February that the first phase — the phase that would be complete in the three-month window mentioned by Trump on Friday — would be to “carve out some office space for Ambassador David M. Friedman and a small staff.” Then, by the end of 2019, the existing compound will be expanded to increase the available office space.

Unless his staffers just gave POTUS a piece of paper purporting to be a bill for a $1 billion U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the description above is not how embassies are funded and constructed in the real world. First, the State Department’s Bureau of Buildings Operations is tasked with overseeing the construction of the agency’s overseas building program:

The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission. In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.

Second, the design and construction of these projects are announced for open competition.  It is a multi-phase process and typically spans multiple years depending on scope and size of the project.

Third, granted that this is a White House priority, Congress is still tasked with appropriating funds for the construction of this embassy.  We have not seen the amount for NEC Jerusalem project although the State Department’s budget justification did say:

The construction of a U.S. Embassy facility in Jerusalem will be among the Department’s highest priority for capital security investments in FY 2018 and FY 2019.

State/OBO has 15 overseas construction contracts in FY2017 at a total cost of about $3B; none includes the Jerusalem project. However, there was an A/E design award for a USCG Jerusalem project for $2,899,963 awarded in FY2016 to Krueck+Sexton Architects Chicago with project description listed as “BFM, proj. dvlp. services.”

Krueck+Sexton Architects also have this image up of US Consulate General Jerusalem. And one of its staffers in an online interview said that his “main focus has been on a master plan for a new U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israel, which includes a 200,000 sqft. office building and the development of several other government buildings on a 16-acre site.”

Of particular note — on April 16, USCG Jerusalem announced a “Meet and Greet” for contractors interested in “Phase 2 Arnona Project.” The project provides improvements to the Arnona property where the consulate general is located. A source familiar with the project confirmed to us that this is the interim build-out of the Arnona consular annex, and is intended to accommodate a small ambassador staff and the MSG Detachment. Below is an excerpt from USCG Jerusalem’s announcement (PDF):

There is an upcoming Building Construction project at the U.S. Consulate General Arnona Jerusalem. The project will be competitively let (bid) by U.S. general contractors, followed by project award to a single, winning U.S. contractor in June 2018. The U.S. contractor may subcontract renovation work to local, Israeli construction companies. The project award to a U.S. contractor is expected to exceed $20 million. The Design-Build project scope includes Building Addition, Compound Upgrades, and Improvements to Utilities and Parking.

If the interim US Embassy in Jerusalem is expected to cost at least $20M, who can really expect the permanent embassy to cost between $150K-$400K? It’s not like they’re just building a guard shack.

For context, just the replacement and repair of Forced Entry & Ballistic Resistant (FE/BR) products (doors/windows) for US Embassy Dhaka cost $1.1M back in 2011; an HVAC Upgrade in Bratislava cost $480,000.00 in 2011; and a temporary embassy “fit-out and installation” in Tripoli, Libya the same year cost $998,000.00. Also, the design/build of the consular waiting area alone in Port of Spain was $856,000. Heck, a Surabaya warehouse cost the USG $3,922,458. 00. More items here. So if somebody tells you he can build an embassy for $400K, best run away unless the work scope is for a tiny house embassy for one with no guards.

The interim Jerusalem embassy facility is not to be confused with the New Embassy Compound Jerusalem, which is a separate project, and is “yet to be defined” according to our source. The expectation is for the embassy design award to come out next year. Which means the construction of the new permanent embassy may not start until late 2019 or early 2020, with the actual completion of the NEC project 2-3 years later barring a calamity.

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State/OIG’s Upcoming Reports to Include Evaluation of Sexual Harassment, Hiring Authority

Posted: 12:50 am  ET

 

The State Department’s Inspector General started work on some subjects of note since last February. For those with stories to share about sexual harassment (and sexual assault), please contact the OIG Hotline or call 1-800-409-9926 and  1-202-647-3320.

We recognize that sexual harassment and sexual assaults are difficult to talk about, and all who we have been in contact with were deeply concerned of career repercussions. But we can all agree that these offenders – particularly high ranking individuals who abused their positions — will not stop until people stand up to them.

We’ve blogged about harassment and assaults for a while now.  Back in August 2016 , State/OIG told us that while they take allegations of sexual harassment “very seriously” as a general matter, “OIG refers allegations of sexual harassment, equal employment opportunity, and/or potential hostile work environment to the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), consistent with the FAM.”

State/OIG also informed us then that “if such matters appear systemic, then OIG may investigate. Indeed, in its report “Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security” (ESP-15-01) OIG examined the case of a Diplomatic Security manager with a long history of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations dating back 10 years.”

Also this: “Department employees who believe they have been subjected to whistleblower retaliation may contact OIG or the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OIG can help the individual in understanding their rights and may investigate the retaliation, as well as alert the Department to any illegal reprisal.”

It took awhile but it looks like the IG is looking into this now. We hope that people will find the courage to speak up and consider sharing their stories. We don’t know when this moment will come again.

    • Evaluation of the Department’s Treatment of Reports of Sexual Harassment
    • Evaluation of the Department of State’s Use of Schedule B Hiring Authority
    • Inspection of the Bureau of Administration, Office of Critical Environment Contracting Analytics, Risk Analysis and Management
    • Inspection of the Status of Benghazi Accountability Review Board Recommendations

In April 2018, the following work were also started:

  • Audit of the Information Security Program for Sensitive Compartmented Information Systems at the Department of State
  • Inspection of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Fraud Prevention Programs

Note that this is not an exhaustive list of all the OIG work started.

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U.S. Embassy Kabul: Fire Alarm System Needs Prompt Attention or #MustHaveNoFireBeforeMarch2019

Posted: 12:45am  ET

 

State/OIG has issued a Management Assistance Report sounding the alarm over the fire alarm system at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. We should hope that no fire breaks out at post before March 2019. But do staffers need to sleep with buckets of sand next to their doors?

During the course of an audit of Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) construction projects at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was alerted to potential risks to personnel and property due to the improper installation of the embassy’s fire alarm system. OIG concluded that the system was, in fact, improperly installed and did present safety risks. OIG is therefore issuing this Management Assistance Report to prompt immediate action to address the identified deficiencies.

OBO and the Bureau of Administration have undertaken a major office and residential expansion at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. As part of this expansion, in June 2010, the bureaus contracted with Caddell Construction, Inc. (Caddell), to build a number of new facilities at the embassy. These facilities include residential and office buildings, warehouses, parking and vehicle maintenance facilities, power plants, perimeter walls, guard towers, and compound access control facilities. Caddell is required to install fire alarm systems in each of the new buildings throughout the compound as part of its contract.

Fire alarm control panels installed in 23 buildings on the embassy compound are key components of the fire alarm system. Fire alarm control panels monitor and control each fire alarm-initiating and signaling device through microprocessors and system software. Fire alarm control panels are connected throughout the embassy compound via fiber optic cables that transmit data between each building and to Post One, a communications center staffed by Marine Security Guards. The Marine Security Guards at Post One are on duty 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and are responsible for ensuring that communications are routed to appropriate responders during emergencies or security threats. When a fire emergency occurs at any building on the embassy compound, Post One is alerted through the network of fire alarm control panels. Post One, in turn, alerts the embassy fire department and other emergency response personnel.

In July 2017, the embassy’s principal operations and maintenance (O&M) contractor, PAE Government Services (PAE), discovered that underground fiber optic cables on the west side of the embassy compound were accidentally cut by a construction worker. As a consequence of the damage to the fiber optic cables, fire alarm control panels in eight buildings could not transmit data to Post One for more than 6 months. After completion of OIG’s fieldwork in January 2018, OIG shared its findings with OBO officials. In response, embassy facility managers took steps to repair the damaged fiber optic cables and restored connectivity between the affected buildings and Post One.

OIG also found that the existing fiber optic cable network does not have a separate redundant path as required by Section 12.3.7 of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 72) code.1

According to NFPA, a redundant path helps ensure the network’s continued functionality if one of the cables is damaged. Without a redundant path, damage in one location can render sections of the network inoperable. Additionally, OIG found that seven fire alarm control panels on the east side of the embassy compound are not connected to Post One. Rather, these seven control panels are on a separate network connected to a guard post staffed by contractor security guards on the east side of the compound. Engineers in OBO’s Office of Fire Protection told PAE that this configuration is inconsistent with OBO standards and that ideally all fire alarm control panels on the embassy compound should be connected to the Post One communications center.

According to OBO officials, because the fiber optic cable network is part of a larger project involving the construction of multiple buildings and facilities, there is no requirement to install a redundant path until the end of the entire construction project, which is currently scheduled to be completed in March 2019. Furthermore, according to OBO officials, because the seven fire alarm control panels on the east side of the embassy compound are in temporary structures, there is likewise no requirement that those structures be connected to Post One. Notwithstanding OBO’s position, OIG made two recommendations to Embassy Kabul, in coordination with OBO, to take immediate actions to correct the identified deficiencies because they pose potential risks to the safety of embassy personnel and property.

Read in full here (PDF).

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Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr: Diplomacy as Tactics

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, 5 April 2018

This is the second of three lectures directed at laying a basis for the development of diplomatic doctrine.  It deals with diplomacy as the tactics of foreign relations.  The preface to this series and the first lecture in it set out some thoughts on diplomacy as strategy.  The third lecture will consider diplomacy as risk management.

In American foreign policy, perpetual warfare, arms races, economic bullying, and derogatory rhetoric seem for the time being to have supplanted diplomacy.  This is a profoundly destabilizing approach to foreign relations.  Once it has run its course, Americans will need to rediscover, reconstitute, and rebuild diplomatic capacity.

Our objective in doing so should be to train and field diplomats who are as skilled in the profession of persuasion as our military are in the profession of arms.  The extent to which we are able to draw on diplomatic doctrine – guidance for the application of judgment to trends, events, and opportunities – will determine the speed and effectiveness with which we can accomplish this.  We need to work now on developing such doctrine for application to our foreign policies and practices when that is possible.

Diplomacy is an instrument of statecraft that few Americans have been educated to understand and whose history – even in relation to our own country – most do not know. Diplomacy emphasizes peaceably arranged change, but it is not pacifist.  Diplomacy is how power persuades states and peoples to accommodate adjustments in relations they instinctively disfavor.  It uses words to portray capabilities and convey intentions in order to shape the calculus of foreign partners and opponents and cause them to make desired changes in their policies and behavior.

Diplomacy is the verbal tactics of foreign relations.  It is the alternative to the use of force as well as its prelude, facilitator, and finale.  It is both the implementer of policy by measures short of war and the translator of the results of war into durable outcomes.

Americans celebrate our independence on the day of its official declaration, July 4, 1776.  Most imagine  that we achieved our autonomy then or on October 19, 1781, when we (and the French) defeated the British at Yorktown.  But this ahistorical view disregards the essential role of diplomacy in such adjustments of relations.  U.S. separation from the British Empire was only secured when the British conceded it.  It took John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Thomas Jefferson nearly two years to persuade the British to accept that the necessary consequence of their military defeat was American independence.  This became a legal reality only on September 3, 1783, when Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris.

The failure of Americans to recognize the centrality of diplomacy to war termination, including in our own war of independence, is not inconsequential.  Recall the ludicrous triumphalism of President George W. Bush after the defeat of the Iraqi Army in 2003, when he stood on an aircraft carrier under a banner, reading “Mission Accomplished.”  Subsequent events in Iraq provided a costly reminder that no war is over until the defeated admit defeat and accept its consequences.  Such adjustments do not happen automatically.  They are achieved through diplomacy or not at all.

The tragic American experience in Iraq was also a reminder that to achieve peace, there must be a leader among the defeated populace with the authority to commit them to it.  This is why the United States left the Japanese emperor on his throne after World War II.  The failure to consider, let alone address, the question of who might be able to commit Iraqis to cooperation with their foreign occupiers – and what would be required to persuade Iraqis to do so – accounted in no small measure for the anarchy that followed the removal of the Saddam regime in Baghdad.

Diplomatic tactics for war termination are an essential element of any war strategy.  But the translation of military triumph into political victory is a task that the American way of war all too often omits.  This reflects a history of pursuing the annihilation of enemies, their unconditional surrender, and their political reconstruction through occupation.  Disdain for diplomacy that negotiates postwar adjustments in relations, together with “mission creep,” is a major reason that so many American wars spin on without end or abate, only to resume in altered form.

 

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Michael R. Pompeo Sworn-in as 70th Secretary of State

Posted: 10:38 pm  PT

 

AND NOW THIS —

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Confirmations: Grenell, Hushek, Thompson, Poblete, Madison, and 5 FS Lists

Posted: 10:35 pm  PT

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Cal. #757 – Andrea L. Thompson, of South Dakota, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Executive Calendar #621 – Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance)
Executive Calendar #790 – Kirsten Dawn Madison, of Florida, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs)
FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS

2018-04-26 PN1436-2 Foreign Service | Nomination for Robert F. Grech, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 8, 2018.

2018-04-26 PN1634 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Karen S. Sliter, and ending Elia P. Vanechanos, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 13, 2018.

2018-04-26 PN1742 Foreign Service | Nomination for Tuyvan Nguyen, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 12, 2018.

2018-04-26 PN1745 Foreign Service | Nomination for Abigail Marie Nguema, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 12, 2018.

2018-04-26 PN1744-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Benjamin Thomas Ardell, and ending Alexander Zvinakis, which 106 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 12, 2018.

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DSS Agent Accused of Sexual Assaults Petitions Court Not to Show His Face — Oops, Too Late

Posted: 10:25 pm  PT

 

On April 9,  the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that DSS Agent David Scharlat’s lawyer petitioned the court to order news media to not show Scharlat’s face as part of any coverage of the case, citing his undercover work for the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. Bucher withdrew the petition Tuesday after it was reported in the Journal Sentinel.

The Journal Sentinel’s  reported that there was some confusion over Scharlat’s employment status:

In court Wednesday, Hulgaard noted that the State Department relieved him of all his duties, made him surrender his weapon and badge, and escorted him from a government building to his home in April 2015.

In an April 9 letter to Hulgaard, an acting deputy assistant secretary with the Diplomatic Security Service said Scharlat is presently employed, but that disclosure of his identity would not adversely affect any open case or investigation.

But wait, a State Department official also told the Journal Sentinel that Scharlat was hired in 2001 and “fired in April 2015.” Also this:

“The Department has zero tolerance for sexual assault and takes any and all allegations of sexual assault very seriously,” and has been cooperating with Waukesha County authorities, the official said in an email.”

Can they please get their story straight? He can’t still be “presently employed” and also “fired in April 2015.”

If he is still employed but has no assigned duties, it is likely that this is now an HR administrative case with appeals and whatnots. But three years on, and this admin case is still ongoing? How did Diplomatic Security and Bureau of Human Resources Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline Division, Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER/CSD) handle this case when one of the victims reported this case to the agency? How are all other cases handled? How many are there? Who keep tabs of these cases?

Isn’t it high time for State/OIG to look into the handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment reports at the State Department?  Or should we all write a daily email to our friends in Congress to get GAO to take a look?  Click here for our previous posts on sexual assaults and here for harassment.

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@StateDept’s Blackhole of Pain Inside the Bureau of Medical Services (MED)

Posted: 12:46 am  PT

 

We previously blogged about the ongoing problems encountered by Foreign Service families with special needs children when dealing with the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services (MED) (see @StateDept’s Mental Health Services Drive Employees with Special Needs #FSKids Nuts).  Note that as employees prepare for the summer job rotation, MED will be reviewing the medical clearances of employees and family members in preparation for their transfer.  Whatever is the number that is now stuck in MED’s labyrinth, expect that number to go up with the upcoming rotations as kids with special needs are snared in the system that is supposed to help but instead has caused so much disruption and pain.

We understand that medical clearance decisions can be appealed to a panel of three doctors. But we’ve been informed that one of the three in this review panel is the reviewing officer of the the other two. We’d like to know how many cases that come before this review panel are decided in complete agreement by all panel members, and how many cases are decided by the two panel members against the decision of the third panel member/rating official? Perhaps something for the congressional oversight panels to look into? Or something to FOIA if this is going the class action route.

Congress should also look into State’s Medical Services perspective on risk. Would it surprise us all if State/MED doesn’t want to take any? State/MED’s mission is “to safeguard and promote the health and well-being of America’s diplomatic community.”  Does that mean keep everyone with the slightest issue inside the United States instead of sending them on overseas assignments? Bad things can happen just the same in the United States – but of course, MED won’t be responsible when employees are on domestic assignments. It is responsible once employees/family members are overseas. So again, what is State/MED’s perspective on risk, and how much does this inform its decision on the medical clearances issued to FS employees, spouses and their kids?

FP’s Robbie Gramer recently had a lengthy piece on FS families in State’s medical labyrinth. It is quite a read, and don’t miss the quotes.