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New U.S. Embassy Beirut to Open in Lebanon in 2022

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

On April 20, 2017, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard broke ground on the new U.S. Embassy compound in Beirut, Lebanon.

The multi-building compound will be located in the suburb of Awkar on a 43-acre site. The compound will provide a safe, secure, sustainable, and modern platform that supports U.S. Embassy staff in representing the U.S. Government to Lebanon and in conducting day-to-day diplomacy.

Professionals from the United States, Lebanon, and other countries will work side-by-side to complete this new diplomatic facility. Morphosis Architects of Culver City, California, is the architect for the project. B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama is the construction contractor.

The construction contract was awarded in December 2016, and completion of the project is anticipated in 2022.

The multi-building complex project with a total budget of $1,026,043,688 will be constructed on a 43.87-acre site in the Awkar suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, located approximately 9 miles northwest of downtown Beirut and in close proximity to the existing Embassy Compound.

The project will reportedly include a Chancery; Marine security guard residence; support annex and buildings; representational, staff and temporary housing; facilities for the community; and parking.  Extending from the Chancery, ribbon-like residential buildings are designed to frame the campus’ central service and circulation corridor.

According to State/OBO, this compound is OBO’s first project designed to earn LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.  The design will reportedly achieve significant water use reduction both inside and outside the Chancery with over 75% of wastewater to be reused on-site for irrigation to reduce the utility costs, stress on the local infrastructure, and to improve overall resiliency of the site.

An estimated workforce of 2,000 American, Lebanese, and third-country workers are expected to be involved in the construction of the new Embassy.

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United States Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway

We have been a reader-supported blog since 2014. We want to keep this blog as open as possible and that’s the reason we don’t have a subscription fee. You know best whether our work is of value to you or not. If it is, and if your circumstances allow it, we could use your help to carry on for another year: Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 ⚡️
Posted: 12:10 am ET

 

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, the new U.S. Embassy in Oslo was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Chargé d’affaires Jim DeHart served as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed the guests. Speakers included Governing Mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen, Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Overseas Building Operations (OBO) Director Ambassador William Moser.

Via State/OBO:

The new, multi-building complex is located on a 10-acre site in the Huseby neighborhood. The new facility provides a safe, secure, and modern facility for U.S. diplomacy and incorporates numerous sustainable features targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold Certification by the Green Building Certification Institute.

EYP Architecture & Engineering of Washington DC is the architect and Walsh Construction of Chicago, Illinois constructed the new facility.

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has completed 133 new diplomatic facilities, with an additional 52 projects now in design or under construction.

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In May 2012, Ambassador Barry White broke ground on the new Embassy in Oslo. The Mayor of Oslo, the Honorable Fabian Stang; Director of Oslo Planning and Building Authority, Ellen de Vibe; Secretary His Majesty The King’s Cabinet, Knut Brakstad; as well as Deputy Chief of Protocol Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oystein Braathen, attended the groundbreaking ceremony, according to the State Department.

The New Embassy Compound in Oslo is a multi-building complex which includes a chancery, an underground support annex, three entry pavilions, and Marine security guard quarters. The new facility will reportedly provide approximately 200 embassy employees with “a state-of-the-art workspace.”

The new facility will incorporate numerous sustainable features, including a restored stream that will become a key landscape feature and contribute to storm water management. Other sustainable features are a green roof on one building, use of natural daylight for energy savings, and a ground-source heat exchange system that will allow the Embassy to meet nearly 100 percent of its heating load. The new Embassy site is also located within 300 meters of public transportation and includes more than 45 bicycle parking spaces. The facility is targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver Certification by the Green Building Certification Institute.

The $228 million project was constructed by Walsh Global, LLC of Chicago, Illinois and the architect of record is EYP Architecture & Engineering. When this project was announced, it was scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2015.

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@StateDept Plans to Build a “Somalia Interim Facility” in Mogadishu For $85-$125M

Posted: 4:25 am ET

 

The State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) is requesting submissions to pre-qualify firms for Design-Build Construction Services for the construction of an Somalia Interim Facility – in Mogadishu, Somalia.  OBO seeks to commission “our nation’s top constructors to produce facilities of outstanding quality and value.”  The estimated construction cost for this project is $85 – 125 million.

This project — available for full and open competition — is the design-build construction of “an expeditionary unclassified cast-in-place concrete facility that will contain office space, staff and guard housing, dining facility, secure perimeter, guard towers, compound access controls, and also morale, welfare, and recreation spaces.”

The 20- acre site is located on the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) Compound.  The announcement says that the USG understands that access to the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) Compound is extremely restricted and therefore “establishing a presence on the compound to execute construction of the subject project may not be feasible.

There are currently three firms working on the compound, they are Bancroft Global Development, RA International, and SKA Group. The announcement includes additional information on airport access requirement:

MIA Compound Access Requirement. Based on the site access restriction described above and the compelling urgency and need for the earliest possible completion of safe secure facilities to house the diplomatic operations and the people task with protecting the mission, firms being considered for award under this acquisition are limited to contractors with established relationships and formal agreements that reflect the firm is authorized access to the MIA Compound for the purpose on construction. To be eligible for contract award, Offeror shall submit documentation either 1) issued by the MIA Authority evidencing the firm’s already-established access authorization to the MIA compound to conduct construction, or 2) showing a formal joint venture or formal partnership/teaming agreement with one of the firms with access and already working on compound (Bancroft Global Development, RA International, and SKA Group).

The announcement also includes the following:

To demonstrate performance of similar construction work for Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 purposes, the offeror needs to provide information demonstrating that it has successfully completed in the United States or at a U.S. diplomatic or consular mission a construction contract or subcontract involving work of the same general type and complexity as the solicited project and having a contract or subcontract value of at least $63 million. The value of the construction contract or subcontract offered to demonstrate performance will not be adjusted for inflation, currency fluctuation, or any other market forces.

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Trump’s Team Checking on How to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem. And Havoc That Follows?

Posted: 12:45 pm PT

 

In November, we blogged about the potential move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (see Will the US Embassy Move From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?). There were two related ongoing construction work at USG properties in Israel — a $50M renovation at US Embassy Tel Aviv, and ongoing work of undetermined cost at a consular annex for US Consulate General Jerusalem. Last month, we learned that both projects were put on hold the day after the election.

On December 12, Dana Weiss from Israel’s Channel2News tweeted, “Trump’s team already checking where and how to move embassy to Jerusalem. Among options Diplomat hotel . This week Israeli Foreign | Started to check availability as the hotel houses elderly. Was told not possible until 2020. Security sources are anxious the move | Would backlash and question the Arab response.”

In June 2014, YNet reported that the U.S. Government holds the option of purchasing land in the Arnona neighborhood, where the consulate is located. This land reportedly includes the Diplomat hotel that currently serves the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

A US administration official said that “Under the terms of its commercial lease agreement, the USG has the option to purchase the property we currently occupy in Arnona and acquire our landlord’s remaining leasehold interests in the adjacent property, which is the site of the Diplomat Hotel.

“The USG has exercised that option and intends to continue using the site as the Consular Annex of the US Consulate General, where we have provided American citizen services and visa services since 2010. Under the terms of the USG’s lease, once the option is exercised, the landlord is required to provide the USG vacant possession of the adjacent property, likely, in 2016.”

The actual move should it happen, requires the involvement of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) which 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, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security tasks with securing personnel and overseas facilities.

On the potential backlash for this move, Uri Savir, former diplomat and Israeli Chief Negotiator of the Oslo Accords wrote in AlMonitor that Cairo greeted Donald Trump’s election positively and that the Egyptian ambassador to Washington was in contact with president-elect Donald Trump. Egypt is reportedly looking at improved relations with Washington under a President Trump but one topic that was discreetly raised by the Egyptians is the potential move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “Cairo cannot commit to an improved relationship if the US Embassy to Israel is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Given the sentiments in Egyptian public opinion toward the Palestinians and the city, which is holy to Islam, Cairo considers this issue as a red line.”

A senior PLO official talking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity explained that “for the Palestinians, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is a “casus belli” (a provocation of war), thus they are planning a series of measures in case this will indeed take place. Ramallah is coordinating these measures with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the Arab League. The official cited five measures: abolishing of the Oslo Accord (and all elements of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians); severing diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel and also between Jordan and Israel; canceling the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a relevant document; calling upon the international community to sever diplomatic ties with Israel; and planning an armed Al-Quds intifada.”

Mr. Savir concludes“it is clear that such a move would create havoc in the Arab world.”

Read more:

 

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State/OIG Audits Local Guard Force Contractors at Critical/High-Threat Posts

Posted: 12:50  am ET

Via State/OIG:

OIG conducted an audit of Local Guard Force Contractors at Critical- and High-Threat Posts  to determine whether (1) local guard force (LGF) contractors at selected critical- and high-threat overseas posts are complying with general and post orders included in the contract; (2) LGF contractors at selected critical- and high- threat overseas posts provide invoices that comply with contract requirements; and (3) regional security officers at selected critical- and high-threat overseas posts perform oversight of the LGF contract in accordance with their Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) delegation memoranda.

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Summary of Findings:

OIG found that the guards working for the four LGF contractors at eight overseas posts (in four missions) complied with, on average, greater than 90 percent of security-related guard post orders observed. However, OIG identified deficiencies that were common across two or more missions related to access control procedures, equipment, unofficial reassignment of post orders, delivery and mail screening procedures, and reporting and investigating procedures. OIG also found that some guards were not receiving a proper number of breaks. Deficiencies generally occurred due to human error, lack of refresher training, and unavailable equipment. These deficiencies, if not addressed, could negatively impact the performance of security procedures that are intended to maintain post security and are required by the LGF contract.

OIG also reviewed whether contractor invoices complied with contract terms and conditions and found that three of the four LGF contractors properly submitted invoices that included appropriate supporting documentation. However, the Mission REDACTED LGF contractor did not adhere to the contractually required invoice format or to the schedule for submitting invoices.

Finally, OIG found that assistant regional security officers (acting as CORs, alternate CORs, and Government Technical Monitors) generally conducted LGF oversight in accordance with requirements, which are to monitor, inspect, and document the contractor’s performance and, when necessary, apply negative incentives for not meeting performance standards. However, OIG found that not all assistant regional security officers (1) documented the contractors’ performance or (2) maintained complete COR files. As a result, oversight was not properly documented. Without a complete COR file, the Government may not have the necessary documentation to defend its position of contractor nonconformance with contract terms, potentially resulting in paying for services that do not meet contract requirements.

A few details:

Local guard force performance deficiencies, if not addressed, could negatively impact the performance of procedures that are intended to maintain post security and are required by the LGF contract. For example, the guards’ failure to conduct access control, delivery, and mail screening procedures in accordance with post orders may result in unauthorized personnel accessing the compound or visitors bringing prohibited items into the compound. Further, if guards do not carry equipment in accordance with post orders, REDACTED, leading to a delayed response to a possible threat. In addition, guards may not be able to react quickly to provide notice to the compound of imminent danger. Similarly, failure to investigate or report suspicious or unusual occurrences to all required parties could delay necessary officials from receiving proper warning, which in turn could delay post officials’ reaction time. Regarding the unofficial reassignment of post orders, guards who are assigned to perform the duties of others may be overwhelmed and unable to complete all reassigned duties. Finally, guards who do not receive regular breaks may be tired, which may lead to impaired judgment in the event a security situation occurs.
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At the new consulate compound in REDACTED, guard post orders stated that guards should instruct contractors to have their irises scanned prior to receiving access badges. However, OIG observed that contractors were receiving badges before having their irises scanned. The LGF Commander stated that logistically, after employees pass through the WTMD [walk-through metal detector], the closest station is the badging station. Thus, it is understandable that guards may stop there first rather than at their scanning stations required.According to the Consulate General REDACTED Senior RSO, once a badge has been issued, contractors are granted official access to the new consulate compound. Thus, it is important that guards verify contractors via the iris scanner prior to issuing access badges.

Read the full report here (PDF).

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@StateDept Picks Jeanne Gang to Design the New Embassy Compound in Brasilia

Posted: 1:47 am EDT

 

On March 8, the State Department announced the selection of Studio Gang Architects of Chicago, Illinois, for the design of the new U.S. Embassy compound in Brasilia, Brazil.  American architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang is the founding principal of Studio Gang. Her Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois and the Folsom Bay Tower in San Francisco are enchanting. See some of her projects here.

Studio Gang Architects was selected from a very talented shortlist of six architecture/engineering (A/E) teams that had advanced to the final round of presentations and interviews. Studio Gang presented a strong and cohesive team approach with more than 20 years of collaborative experience executing projects with complex constraints at challenging sites.

The multi-building campus will be situated on the existing 4.8 hectares (12-acre) Chancery complex within the city’s “Diplomatic Sector” near the seat of the Brazilian government. The project will rebuild the compound and includes: a Chancery, Marine Security Guard Residence, support facilities, perimeter security, and facilities for the Embassy community.

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Photo of the Day: New Embassy London Topping Out Ceremony

Posted: 1:32 am EDT

 

Via US Embassy London:

On December 8, the U.S. Embassy in London held a “topping out” ceremony with the Stars and Stripes flying on the roof of the new Embassy undergoing construction at Nine Elms. The building has now reached its full height.  More photos here.

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New US Embassy Topping Out Ceremony Via US Embassy London/Flickr

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New London Embassy: Design Passed the Full Mockup Blast, So Why the “Augmentation Option” For $2 Million?

Posted: 2:58 am EDT

 

Back in July last year, we wrote about the New London Embassy (NLE) project. Our trusted source told us that the project “went into construction before its glass facade design was tested to confirm it will meet blast standards.” Our source further explained that  the testing was needed only because the New London Embassy does not use known, familiar, window systems. The curtain wall apparently has no frames to ‘bite’ the glass and retain it under blast. That is a new technique for OBO we’re told, so the bureau reportedly had no basis to analyze the design (see New Embassy Construction Hearing: Witnesses Not Invited, and What About the Blast-Proof Glass?).

On December 8, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the New London Embassy Project. Below is an excerpt from State/OIG Steve Linick’s prepared statement (PDF):

In July 2015, OIG published the findings of its performance audit of the London NEC construction project.1 During this audit, OIG reviewed the Department’s evaluation and approval of the project design, including the design of the outer façade of the Chancery building,2 which comprises two layers. The outermost layer consists of a scrim stretched over a network of thin aluminum components. The scrim wraps the building to the east, west, and south, acting as a screen. Underneath the scrim, a glass curtain wall with an aluminum frame forms the inner layer of the building’s envelope.

OIG’s first objective was to determine whether the Department resolved security issues with the curtain wall design before allowing construction to begin. The Department’s physical security standards require all new office buildings such as the Chancery at the London NEC to provide blast protection to keep people and property safe from an attack. Moreover, by law and Department policy, the Department must certify to Congress that the project design will meet security standards prior to initiating construction.

OIG found that the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) did not obtain blast-testing results for the Chancery’s curtain wall design before the Department certified the project and authorized initiation of construction. As discussed in more detail below, initiating construction prior to security certification and blast testing increased the financial risk to the Department and taxpayers, and was contrary to the Department’s policy.

A second objective for OIG was to determine whether the Department adhered to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements in negotiating a price for the NEC. OIG found that the contracting officer responsible for the NEC construction contract awarded the construction portion of the contract without requiring the contractor to provide an explanation of approximately $42 million in cost differences between the initial proposal and the final proposal. Because the contracting officer did not obtain sufficient information when negotiating the final price for the construction portion of the contract as required by the FAR, OBO was unable to assess fully the contents of the construction proposal that the contracting officer ultimately accepted and used as the basis for the firm-fixed-price award.

A practice that does not comply with 12 FAM 361.1

Since at least 2003, the Department has followed the practice of issuing limited notices to proceed, as set forth in the 2003 draft agreement, thereby authorizing construction contractors to begin limited tasks (not including foundation work) prior to certification. This practice, however, does not comply with 12 FAM 361.1, which states that “no contract should be awarded or construction undertaken until the proponent of a project has been notified by the Department that the appropriate certification action has been completed.” Notwithstanding the prohibition in 12 FAM 361.1, DS approved OBO’s request for early site work and construction of the piling foundation of the London NEC in November 2012, more than a year before certification and blast testing.

Concerns with the security of the curtain wall

The London NEC’s outer façade design was new and was never previously evaluated or tested by DS. The glass curtain wall design used in the NEC needed to meet a variety of security criteria, including forced-entry/ballistic resistant (FE/BR) and blast-protection requirements. As early as November 2012, DS notified OBO of its concerns with the curtain-wall design. DS informed OBO that there were substantial omissions and deficiencies of essential information related to FE/BR testing, curtain-wall sound mitigation, and blast-design methodology. This meant that DS would not accept computer modeling of the curtain wall to certify whether it would meet blast requirements and thus would require field validation as a condition to certify the project. CSE also expressed concerns with the security of the curtain wall and notified DS that its concerns would “need to be resolved by either a follow-on design or a written agreement” from OBO.

An “alternate curtain wall system” – just in case

Based on that written assurance and prior to any blast testing, the Under Secretary of State for Management certified to Congress on December 16, 2013, that the London NEC would be constructed in a secure manner and would provide adequate and appropriate security for sensitive activities and personnel. During this timeframe, OBO tasked the design firm for the NEC to develop solutions in the event the curtain wall failed the blast test. Specifically, OBO worked with the contractor to develop an “alternate curtain wall system” that was acceptable to DS for certification without blast testing.

An “augmentation option”— for an additional cost of $2 million

DS oversaw two series of component-level blast tests in February and April 2014. According to DS, the tests were necessary to determine the viability of employing structural silicone for the curtain wall. However, because the test results were mixed and inconclusive, OBO and DS agreed that the full mockup blast test would be the only valid test of the design. The full mockup blast test occurred on May 28, 2014, and according to DS, the design passed. Nevertheless, DS and OBO reached an agreement incorporating what became known as an “augmentation option”— for an additional cost of $2 million. Employing this option, although not necessary to meet standards, was intended to provide an added measure of security.

As noted in our audit, OIG recognizes that the Department’s decision to initiate construction of the London NEC prior to completing the required blast testing was driven by a schedule to complete construction by 2017. However, by initiating construction without first completing blast testing, the Department committed itself to the construction of a building that could have required significant redesign, potentially placing millions of dollars at risk.

 

The House Oversight Committee hearing page is here with the rest of the video clips and the prepared statements of the witnesses from OIG, OBO, and Diplomatic Security.

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U.S. flag goes up in Cuba: “What matters is this – that we all belong to the sea between us.”

Posted: 4:37 am EDT
Updated: 1:06 pm EDT

 

Maine poet Richard Blanco who was born to a Cuban exile family and read at President Obama’s second inauguration will read a poem commemorating the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana on August 14. Its title is “Matters Of The Sea” or “Cosas Del Mar,” and its first line goes, “The sea doesn’t matter. What matters is this – that we all belong to the sea between us.” Looking forward to reading it in Spanish!
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Secretary Kerry With U.S. Delegation Set For Ceremonial Reopening of U.S. Embassy Cuba

Posted: 12:21 am EDT

 

Secretary Kerry will be on a historic trip to Havana this Friday where he will preside over the ceremonial reopening of  the U.S. Embassy there. At a State Department background briefing, a senior administration official gave a quick rundown of the secretary’s events in Havana:

The opening ceremony, which is the flag-raising ceremony at the embassy, is principally a government-to-government event. It’ll include officials from the Cuban Government, a range of U.S. Government agencies, as well as members of Congress. There will be some U.S. and Cuban private citizens there, but it is primarily a government-to-government event, and it is extremely constrained in space. If you’ve ever been to our embassy, you know what the – I was somewhat amused to see it described as our front lawn, because it’s a very constrained space. But it is principally a government-to-government event, signifying this new relationship and the reopening of an embassy.

Later in the day, we are having a large event at the chief of mission’s residence, which is also a diplomatic installation, in which a broad range of groups will be invited, including the Cuban Government, Cuban Americans, Cuban artists and cultural leaders, the Diplomatic Corps, entrepreneurs, and Cuban political human rights and media activists.
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On the issues of the Secretary’s delegation, let me say that I think, for example, one of the things that is most important to us is to make sure that our colleagues at the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department are recognized for their work in the change in policy, so there will be senior representatives from both those departments on the Secretary’s delegation. The regulations that were put in place after the President’s December 17th announcement were Treasury and Commerce regulations, and so it’s particularly important to us that those departments be represented by senior members. Obviously, we’ve long had colleagues from the Department of Homeland Security involved in our relationship with Cuba as part of our migration talk because they work on – for example, the Coast Guard has had a relationship with Cuba for a number of years now, a very productive operational relationship. So I think that it is those kinds of other agencies that will be part of this delegation.

Here’s a couple of interesting pieces on the road to this day:

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The State Department says that this visit is the first by a Secretary of State in 60 years. Or perhaps 70 years?

 

The U.S. Delegation, who’s in and who’s not?

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He’s not part of the official delegation but let’s give a shoutout 📣 to career diplomat Ricardo Zuniga!

In May, 2015, Mr. Zuniga completed a three-year detail with the National Security Council Staff, where he served as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Last month, he assumed charged as Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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President Barack Obama talks with Ricardo Zuniga, National Security Council’s Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, after the President delivered a statement on Cuba and the release of American Alan Gross in the Oval Office, Dec. 17, 2014. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice watches from the doorway. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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