USAID Prepares to Shrink #WestBank/Gaza Presence, Pompeo Visits @USAID HQ

 

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@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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USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley Says United States Taking Names. Again. #UNGA #Thursday

Posted: 3:40 am ET

 

Back in January, Ambassador Nikki Haley made her first appearance before the press as USUN ambassador prior to presenting her credentials. She made a huge splash with her opening salvo:  “For those who don’t have our back, we’re taking names – we will make points to respond to that accordingly.” (see @USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley: Taking Names and Diplomatic Dustup).

Now, she’s taking names again of those who will criticize the impending US embassy move.  The UN General Assembly is set to meet on Thursday for an emergency discussion on the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Haaretz is reporting that in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, “Israel has instructed its diplomatic missions to seek meetings with high-level officials to persuade them to direct their representatives at the UN to oppose, not to support, or at the very least not to deliver a speech at the General Assembly.”

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@StateDept Spox Talks “No Double Standard Policy” and 7 FAM 052 Loudly Weeps

Posted: 2:58 am ET

 

So we asked about the State Department’s “no double stand policy” on December 5 after media reports say that classified cables went out  in the past 2 weeks warning US embassies worldwide to heighten security ahead of a possible @POTUS announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On December 7, the State Department press corps pressed the official spokesperson about a cable that reportedly asked agency officials to defer all nonessential travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Note that the security messages issued by multiple posts on December 5 and 6 with few exceptions were personal security reminders, and warnings of potential protests.  The Worldwide Caution issued on December 6 is an update “with information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions, political violence, and criminal activity against U.S. citizens and interests abroad.

None of the messages released include information that USG officials were warned to defer non-essential travel to the immediate affected areas. When pressed about this apparent double standard, the official spox insisted that “unfortunately, just as State Department policy, we don’t comment on official – whether or not there was an official communication regarding — regarding this.”

Noooooooooooooooooo!

The spox then explained  what the “no double standard” policy means while refusing to comment on official communication that potentially violates such policy. And if all else fails, try “hard to imagine that our lawyers have not gone through things.”  

Holy moly guacamole, read this: 7 FAM 052  NO DOUBLE STANDARD POLICY

In administering the Consular Information Program, the Department of State applies a “no double standard” policy to important security threat information, including criminal information.

Generally, if the Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.

If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.

The Department’s “No Double Standard” policy, provided in 7 FAM 052, is an integral part of CA/OCS’s approach to determine whether to send a Message.  The double standard we guard against is in sharing threat-related information with the official U.S. community — beyond those whose job involves investigating and evaluating threats — but not disseminating it to the U.S. citizen general public when that information does or could apply to them as well.

Also this via 7 FAM 051.2(b) Authorities (also see also 22 CFR 71.1, 22 U.S.C. 2671 (b)(2)(A), 22 U.S.C. 4802, and 22 U.S.C. 211a):

…The decision to issue a Travel Alert, Travel Warning, or a Security or Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens for an individual country is based on the overall assessment of the safety/security situation there.  By necessity, this analysis must be undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations.  Accordingly, posts must not allow extraneous concerns to color the decision of whether to issue information regarding safety or security conditions in a country, or how that information is to be presented.

As to the origin of this policy, we would need to revisit the Lockerbie Bombing and Its Aftermath (this one via ADST’s Oral History).

The State Department’s official spokesperson via the Daily Press Briefing, December 7, 2017:

QUESTION: So a cable went out to all U.S. diplomatic and consular missions yesterday that asked State Department officials to defer all nonessential travel to the entirety of Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Normally when you are discouraging American officials from going to a particular area, under the no double standard rule, you make that public to all U.S. citizens so that they have the same information. I read through the Travel Warnings on Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza yesterday, both in the middle of the day and then at the end of the day after the worldwide caution, and I saw no similar warning to U.S. citizens or advice to U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel to those areas. Why did you say one thing in private to U.S. officials and another thing – and not say the same thing in public to U.S. citizens?

MS NAUERT: Let me state the kinds of communication that we have put out to American citizens and also to U.S. Government officials. And one of the things we often say here is that the safety and security of Americans is our top priority. There are top policy priorities, but that is our overarching, most important thing, the safety and security of Americans.

We put out a security message to U.S. citizens on the 5th of December – on Monday, I believe it was. We put out a security message to our U.S. citizens that day – that was Tuesday? Okay, thank you – on the 5th of December. We put out another one on the 6th of December as well, expressing our concerns. We want to alert people to any possible security situations out of an abundance of caution. That information was put, as I understand it, on the State Department website, but it was also issued by many of our posts overseas in areas where we thought there could be something that could come up.

In addition to that, there is a Travel Warning that goes out regarding this region. That is something that is updated every six months, I believe it is. This Travel Warning for the region has been in effect for several, several years, so that is nothing new. In addition to that, we put out a worldwide caution. That is updated every six months. We had a worldwide caution in place for several years, but yesterday, out of an abundance of caution, we updated it. As far as I’m aware of, and I won’t comment on any of our internal communications to say whether or not there were any of these internal communications because we just don’t do that on any matter, but I think that we’ve been very clear with Americans, whether they work for – work for the U.S. Government or whether they’re citizens traveling somewhere, about their safety and security. This is also a great reminder for any Americans traveling anywhere around the world to sign up for the State Department’s STEP program, which enables us to contact American citizens wherever they are traveling in the case of an emergency if we need to communicate with them.

QUESTION: But why did you tell your officials not to travel to those areas between December 4th and December 20th, and not tell American citizens the same things? Because you didn’t tell that to American citizens in all of the messages that you put up on the embassy website, on the consulate website, nor did you tell American citizens that in a Worldwide Caution, nor did you tell them that in the link to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza that was put out by the State Department in the Worldwide Caution yesterday. You’re telling your people inside one thing, and you’re telling American citizens a different thing, and under your own rules, you are – there is supposed to be no double standard. Why didn’t you tell U.S. citizens the same thing you told the U.S. officials?

MS NAUERT: Again, unfortunately, just as State Department policy, we don’t comment on official – whether or not there was an official communication regarding —

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: – regarding this. But I can tell you as a general matter, I think we have been very clear about the security concerns regarding Americans. We have put out those three various subjects or types of communications to American citizens who are traveling in areas that could be affected.

QUESTION: I’m going to ask you –

MS NAUERT: In terms of the U.S. Government, when we talk about the U.S. Government deferring non-essential travel, I would hope that people would not travel for non-essential reasons just as a general matter anyway.

QUESTION: But why – I’m going to ask you a hypothetical, which I would ask you to entertain, if you’ll listen to it.

MS NAUERT: I’ll listen to it. I’d be happy to listen to it.

QUESTION: If there were such communication, and you know and every U.S. diplomat who gets an ALDAC, which means every other person who works at the State Department knows that this communication went out – so if there were such communication, why would you say one thing to your own officials and a different thing to American citizens —

MS NAUERT: As our —

QUESTION: – which is what the law and your own rules require?

MS NAUERT: As you well know, we have a no “double standard.” And for folks who aren’t familiar with what that means, it’s when we tell our staff something about a particular area or a security threat, we also share that same information with the American public. I would find it hard to imagine that our lawyers have not gone through things to try to make sure that we are all on the same page with the information that we provide to U.S. Government officials as well as American citizens. And that’s all I have for you on that. Okay? Let’s move on to something else.

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Trump Admin Gets Multiple Warnings That Jerusalem Recognition Could Trigger Dangerous Consequences

Posted: 3:04 am ET

 

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@StateDept on Amb. Friedman’s comment (again): “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy”

Posted: 1:26 am ET
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On September 11, the State Department had to distance itself from a comment made by its top representative in Israel (see @StateDept: Ambassador Friedman’s comment “does not represent a shift in U.S. policy”.  On September 28, State Department spox Heather Nauert, once more from the podium, said that it’s ambassador’s two percent comment “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy.” One reporter asked “if the perception that the ambassador to Israel has his thumb on the scale in the view of this conflict creating problems for the U.S.?” The spox had an interesting response that includes North Korea, and oh, maps.

Via the Daily Press Briefing:

QUESTION: Ambassador David Friedman in Israel gave an interview in which he said that only two percent of the West Bank is occupied. Does that reflect the U.S. position?

MS NAUERT: So I’ve also heard about this report, and when you mention that figure of two percent, I don’t know where that came from. That came from some report. I have no idea which report that came from. 14 9/28/2017

QUESTION: It was in the interview. It came from his —

QUESTION: It came from his own mouth.

QUESTION: It was from David Friedman’s mouth.

MS NAUERT: Oh. Okay, okay. I thought he was citing a report or something. Okay, okay. So I’m aware of what he said. His comments – and I want to be crystal clear about this – should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiations that the U.S. would have with the Israelis and the Palestinians. It should also not indicate a shift in U.S. policy.

QUESTION: Well, do they reflect – oh. So it does – so his comments by the U.S. ambassador to Israel do not reflect U.S. policy?

MS NAUERT: I just want to say it should not be read as a change in U.S. policy.

QUESTION: Did he go rogue?

QUESTION: This is —

QUESTION: So is this —

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. That’s —

QUESTION: This is at least the second time that from this podium you’ve had to sort of clean up Ambassador Friedman’s remarks when he had upped the alleged occupation. Is this becoming an issue? I mean, even if it’s not a change of position, is the perception that the ambassador to Israel has his thumb on the scale in the view of this conflict creating problems for the U.S.?

MS NAUERT: I guess what I would say to that is we have some very effective leaders and representatives for the U.S. Government, including Jason Greenblatt, Mr. Kushner, who are spending an awful lot of time in the region trying to get both sides together to have talks about a lasting existence side by side. The President has made that one of his top priorities. And when we talk about top priorities here, we talk about the nuclear threat of North Korea, but also – the nuclear and ballistic missile threat of North Korea, but we also talk about this. And I think it indicates just how important this is to the President that he has put those two in charge of negotiating that.

In terms of the ambassador, I can’t comment any more for you on that other than to say our policy here has not changed.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds —

QUESTION: But when you say that – Heather, when you say — 15 9/28/2017

QUESTION: It sounds to me like you’re saying – that you’re telling – you’re telling the Palestinians and the Israelis don’t bother listening to the ambassador, listen to Greenblatt and Kushner.

MS NAUERT: I have not had the chance to speak to the ambassador, so I will hesitate at commenting too much —

QUESTION: I mean, the ambassador spoke —

MS NAUERT: Hold on – too much on what he said. I was not there. I have not heard it. I have not heard the context in which that conversation was had. But I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed.

QUESTION: Right. But the – but I mean, all that is fair enough, but the problem arises because he is the Senate-confirmed ambassador. Mr. – neither Greenblatt nor Kushner are. They’re just informal-type envoys. And ambassadors to every country are supposed to speak for and with the authority of the President of the United States. Do you not see that this is causing confusion?

And then as a purely factual matter, how much of – what percent of the West Bank does the United – does the administration believe is occupied?

MS NAUERT: I don’t know that we have a map of that or that we have —

QUESTION: You’ve got a lot of maps on that.

MS NAUERT: Do we have a lot of maps?

QUESTION: Oh, yeah.

MS NAUERT: Do we?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, see, you all pre-date me here. I’ll go pull out some —

QUESTION: Heather, do you —

MS NAUERT: — the dusty shelves.

QUESTION: You have many, many, many, many maps.

MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Said, go right ahead.

QUESTION: I want to follow up on something else that he said.

MS NAUERT: Yes. 16 9/28/2017

QUESTION: He said that the two-state solution has lost its meaning. Is that your position? I mean, this is – it’s been the case of past U.S. presidents – I mean U.S. ambassadors in Israel to speak for the State Department and to report directly to the Secretary of State. Has he cleared that with the Secretary of State?

MS NAUERT: I under – I understand. The Secretary is on a plane right now. I saw him earlier this morning at the China dialogue. I have not had a chance to talk with him about this.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Ambassador Friedman’s current comments —

MS NAUERT: Elise, I’m not going to have anything more for you on the ambassador.

QUESTION: Okay, but will you – I understand. But you just said that Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner are working on this issue.

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And then you – or before that, you said that Ambassador Friedman’s comments don’t reflect a change in policy. So aren’t you a bit concerned that the ambassador’s comments are detracting or going to harm the efforts by the President’s appointed envoys on this issue?

MS NAUERT: I think I would go back to the meetings that the President held where the Secretary was last week at the UN, in meeting with Mr. Abbas and meeting with Mr. Netanyahu. And I think they know – I know they know – just how strongly we feel about trying to bring peace, peace to that region.

QUESTION: Well, they – the President told him —

MS NAUERT: And —

QUESTION: — that last week and that yes, they came across – they came out of those meetings last week. And now this week —

MS NAUERT: And we both came out of those meetings very, very hopeful.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS NAUERT: And they both had said something along the lines of “We have” – something along the lines of “We’ve never felt like we’re in a better position to reach this goal.” So I’m not going to tarnish that in any kind of way. I think we’re still going forward with that goal.

QUESTION: But that was last week. And this week, the ambassador is coming out and saying something completely different. Has he been — 17 9/28/2017

MS NAUERT: Well, let me just say, to my knowledge, we have not received any phone calls about this just yet. Okay?

Said, go ahead. Go right ahead.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up very quickly. I’m sorry. I just want to follow up, because today, the prime minister of Israel told the official news channel that he discussed with Mr. Greenblatt and with Mr. Friedman and, in fact, with Mr. Dermer, the ambassador, the Israeli ambassador here, that they – they want to close – he raised with them closing the PLO embassy here in Washington. You have anything on that? Do you know anything about that? Because I told the Palestinian ambassador. He says we have not heard anything; this is something that the Israelis are just saying they’re doing.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about that?

MS NAUERT: You know what? I’m not familiar with that report. If I have anything for you on it, I will certainly get it to you, but I can refer you back to the government. Okay?

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@StateDept: Ambassador Friedman’s comment “does not represent a shift in U.S. policy”

Posted: 4:25 am ET
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Via DPB:

QUESTION: And my other question pertaining to Ambassador David Friedman, he gave us an interview to the Jerusalem Post last week, last Friday.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: And he termed the Palestinian territories as allegedly occupied. Has there been any departure from the standard U.S. position that these territories are occupied?

MS NAUERT: Our position on that hasn’t changed. The comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy.

QUESTION: Okay. But he is the ambassador of the United States of America.

MS NAUERT: His comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy. Okay?

 

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U.S.Ambassador to Israel David Friedman Gets a Senior Advisor

Posted: 1:33 am ET
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USG Seeks Jerusalem Hotel Room Services For Estimated 2,704 Room Nights For a Year

Posted: 3:06 am ET
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On July 20, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv issued a solicitation for Jerusalem Hotel Room Services.

The Embassy intends to conduct a pre-proposal conference, and all prospective offerors are invited to attend. The pre-proposal conference will take place at 10:00 AM local Israel time, on August 1, 2017, at the US Embassy Annex Facility located at 11 Galgalai Haplada St., Entrance B, 3rd floor, Herzelia Pituach, Israel.

The requirement is for the providing of lodging rooms for Official US Government visits to the City of Jerusalem.  The estimated number of hotel rooms for one year is 1,202 rooms and 2,704 room nights.  The anticipated performance is for a base period of twelve months and two one -year periods at the option of the Government.

The scope of services requires the contractor to provide a minimum of 40 (forty) and a maximum of 6,500 (six thousand five hudred) single hotel rooms in Jerusalem. According to FedBiz, the contract type will be indefinite quantity.

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POTUS Abroad: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, Belgium (NATO), Italy (G-7)

Posted: 11:21 pm PT
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Saudi Arabia May 20–22

Israel May 22–23

Vatican May 24

 

Brussels May 24–25

Italy May 25–27

Bonus tweet!

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