‘Very Stable Genius’ Finds Alibi Not to Cut Ribbon at Opening of New Embassy Castle With Moat

Posted: 3:57 am ET

 

The Financial Times calls it London’s first new moated building since the medieval era. After project planning and construction that spanned about a decade, the New London Embassy is set to open shortly.  The new compound is reportedly buffered by an 8 ft-deep, crescent-shaped moat, and set back from surrounding roads by 100 ft per security requirements. The Guardian says its “concrete bulwarks come disguised as earthworks, and its anti-truck bollards are fig-leafed with hedges.”

The New London Embassy project was announced on October 2, 2008 by Bush appointee, Ambassador Robert Tuttle:

Meeting the challenge of providing a modern, open and secure American diplomatic facility in London, the U.S. State Department today signed a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore to acquire a site in the Nine Elms Opportunity Area in Wandsworth for the construction of a new Embassy.

“This has been a long and careful process,” said Ambassador Robert Tuttle, who has led the search for a new site. “We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square. In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable Embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility. I’m excited about America playing a role in the regeneration of the South Bank of London.”

On February 23, 2010, Obama Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis B. Susman, and Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, Adam Namm, announced that KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania won the design competition for the New London Embassy.

The ground breaking for the New London Embassy did not occur until November 2013 under second term Obama Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matthew Barzun.

President Trump’s new political ambassador to London, Ambassador Woody Johnson said that the new embassy represented “a signal to the world that this special relationship that we have is stronger and is going to grow and get better.”  The Telegraph also quoted Ambassador Johnson, who owns the New York Jets, saying that the price tag was a “bargain” compared to the $1.6B stadium built for his team in New Jersey.

President Trump has now tweeted that he will not be doing the ribbon cutting because in his words it’s a “bad deal.” For those curious about the necessity and the funding of this new compound, see  US Embassy London: Don’t Worry, Be Happy — New Digs Not Funded By Appropriated Funds and our related posts below:

New Billion Dollar U.S. Embassy London to Open to the Public on January 16, 2018

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

Photo of the Day: New Embassy London Topping Out Ceremony

Congress to State Dept: We Want All Your Stuff on New London Embassy Except Paperclips (July 2014)

New Embassy Construction Hearing: Witnesses Not Invited, and What About the Blast-Proof Glass? (diplopundit.net)

US Embassy London: Don’t Worry, Be Happy — New Digs Not Funded By Appropriated Funds

A New Embassy for the Future. In London. For $1 Billion

US Embassy London Celebrates 10,750 Visitors to Winfield House With a Time-Lapse Video

State Department’s Embassy “Design Excellence” Initiative: Year in Review (Video)

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US Embassy London: First and Second Tour (FAST) Officers Get Face Time With Secretary Kerry

Posted: 2:03 am EDT
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Via state.gov:

Secretary Kerry Meets With First- and Second-Tour State Department Employees During Visit to Embassy London U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matthew Barzun, meets with State Department employees on their first and second tours abroad during a visit to the U.S. Embassy in London, U.K., on December 14, 2015. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Meets With First- and Second-Tour State Department Employees During Visit to Embassy London
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matthew Barzun, meets with State Department employees on their first and second tours abroad during a visit to the U.S. Embassy in London, U.K., on December 14, 2015. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Photo of the Day: Ambassador Barzun Visits Global Entry Sign-Up Booth at Google UK

Posted: 12:02 pm EDT
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Via US Embassy London/FB:

23528561881_b5a392b3b6_z

Ambassador Barzun visits the Global Entry Sign-Up Booth at Google UK

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. Members can enter the country through the automatic kiosks at airports. Membership also includes TSA Pre✓® which provides trusted travelers with expedited security screening so travelers do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. More details can be found here.

 

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US Embassy London Celebrates 10,750 Visitors to Winfield House With a Time-Lapse Video

— Domani Spero
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Via US Embassy London:

 

With “Let ‘Em In,”  the second single from Paul McCartney and the Wings’ 1976 album Wings at the Speed of Sound. Post also did a timelapse video of Winfield House for the embassy’s New Orleans themed July 4th Party.

Since we now live in the age of social media, Winfield House which was given by Barbara Hutton to the U.S. Government after World War II for a token price of an American dollar — to be repaired and used as the official residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s — now has its own Instagram account. Check it out!

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Ambassador Matthew Barzun Says Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch

— Domani Spero
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Matthew Barzun, our Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s will soon get royally slammed for suggesting undiplomatically that he can’t stand British lamb.  The New York Daily News writes that “you don’t need to be fluent in the King’s English to predict the outrage.” Uh-oh!

Okay, so before you all get mad about the lamb, he also did try to learn a few sentences of Welsh in preparation for the NATO summit this week.  So he gets points for that.  Let’s hear it from Wales Online who is “delighted to see Mr Barzun having a go” at learning Welsh:

US ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, wasn’t shy about sharing the more painful moments of his attempts to learn his first few sentences in Welsh – despite taking nine attempts to master saying “Helô”.
[….]
Mr Barzun, who was appointed as ambassador to the UK last year after previously being ambassador to Sweden, posted the video of his Welsh attempts, which also included the essential “Croeso i Gymru, President Obama”, the very useful “dwi’n hoffi coffi” (I like coffee) and a very impressive beginner’s pronunciation of the famous Anglesey village Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.
[…]
But he also displayed some knowledge of Welsh popular culture and one of our most famous export – confessing in Welsh that the three words of the language that Americans know are “Catherine. Zeta. Jones.”

 

We don’t know if they teach Welsh at FSI; though probably not.  In any case, here are the outtakes:

 

 

One of the commenters on WalesOnline writes, “Welsh is a really difficult language to master, even for the Welsh people !! The fact that you have made the effort , is such a compliment.”  

We imagine that Ambassador Barzun will probably impress most Welsh folks with his attempts to speak even a few phrases of their language. We’d be really impressed if the ambassador also gets to visit the Cardiff Rift that runs through Roald Dahl Plass, a public plaza in Cardiff Bay, and takes a selfie with our favorite Captain Jack Harkness. Captain Jack is there somewhere, somebody fiiiinnnnd hiiiiim and bring him back to the telly!

Oh, pardon me … what about the lamb? Those suggested recipes may have to wait until after the Summit, but the ambassador already realized he’s in a lamb stew of sorts:

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Official Guidance on Nap Rooms: Our diplomats are tireless, no nap rooms needed!

— Domani Spero
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Well, that was quick.  Yesterday, there was this Tweet of the Day: US Embassy London to Get Nap Rooms?. Barely 24 hours later, the State Department slapped down the nap room idea at Embassy London or any of our diplomatic missions. The State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf  said that the agency is not considering establishing nap rooms “at this time.” Below is an excerpt from the DPB:

2 kittens taking a nap

2 kittens taking a nap (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

QUESTION: This is a slightly whimsical question —

MS. HARF: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: — but I see a tweet suggesting that the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom has —

MS. HARF: You’re asking about nap rooms, aren’t you?

QUESTION: Yes. Is there anything to that?

MS. HARF: I was going to make a joke, but I’m not. Actually, I might still.

QUESTION: Do you have guidance on this?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I have guidance.

QUESTION: Amazing.

MS. HARF: And I wrote at the top: Our diplomats are tireless advocates for our foreign policy. It’s pretty good, right? Nap room, tireless, no? Okay, fine. No one liked my joke.

QUESTION: I liked it.

MS. HARF: Thank you, Elise. So yes, I do have guidance on this. In a private talk yesterday, U.S. employees at the Embassy in London – Arianna Huffington touted the productivity benefits of getting more sleep – something we can probably all attest to – and urged the ambassador to follow the Huffington Post example of installing nap rooms. The ambassador graciously and diplomatically said he would look into it. While we are not considering establishing nap rooms at Embassy London or any of our diplomatic missions at this time, we obviously think that work-life balance is important, and someday I will attempt to find it.

While they were at it, the Secretary arrived in Poland.  Attending a meeting in Warsaw, the Secretary was spotted taking what appears to be a snooze. Was this a nano-nap, a micro-nap,  a mini-nap or a power nap?

JK’s rapid response:

 

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Tweet of the Day: US Embassy London to Get Nap Rooms?

— Domani Spero
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Seriously, can you imagine what this is going to do to your bidlists?

 

Via HuffPost UK

The United States embassy in London plans to install nap rooms to stop its diplomats from getting too tired, the American ambassador to Britain has indicated.

Matthew Barzun made the pledge during an event at the embassy on Monday afternoon alongside Arianna Huffington, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.

During a Q&A session with embassy staff, Huffington encouraged Barzun to follow the example set by the HuffPost New York office and dedicate a space to allow staff to rest. Following enthusiastic reception from his staff, Barzun declared the suggestion was “so moved”. He added: “We’re going to look at nap room locations.”

 

Click here to see 10 successful corporations that already let employees catch some shuteye during work hours in an effort to boost employee productivity, alertness and general health. Early this year, digital marketing startup HubSpot had an office expansion, which of course, includes this nap room with a hammock!  We don’t know what’s the work hours like for these companies but a technology start-up AskforTask.com set up a nap room to help ease fatigue among its web developers who were working long hours.  Apparently some were working as long as 70 hours per week. Do we have that kind of work hours anywhere?

To balance out all that excitement, best read BBC’s Nap Rooms Gone Bad.

Oops! A search over at OPM provides zero results on nap breaks.  OPM does have this to say — Combination With Rest Periods Prohibited:  “An agency may not extend a regularly scheduled lunch break by permitting an employee to take an authorized rest period (with pay) prior to or immediately following lunch, since a rest period is considered part of the employee’s compensable basic workday.”DOL also has nothing on nap breaks. Government rules will probably need to catch up on this new trend. And yes, we can already envision the circus in Congress.

If this is implemented, the embassy’s time and attendance clerk will need a new SOP. Who will be eligible to use the nap rooms and for how long — generalists, specialists, FSNs, contractors, charforce, guards, all of the above, some of the above?  Who gets the nano-nap, the micro-nap,  the mini-nap or the power nap? The embassy may also need to hire a scheduler for the nap rooms.  Also, who will wake up employees if they oversleeps or if they get nightmares during their naps?  Would this potentially be grounds for grievance – somebody could not get a power nap, did not get a boost in productivity, hence was not promoted at the first opportunity?

Hold on, we’re on the bureaucracy’s uncharted country.

 

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State Dept’s Selfie Diplomacy: #UnitedForUkraine; Now Waiting For Selfie From the Russian Bear …

— Domani Spero

In the last 48 hours, we’ve been seeing a bunch of selfies from the State Department with the hashtag #UnitedForUkraine.  The NYPost writes:

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was mocked Thursday after posting a photo of herself on Twitter holding a sign that read #United­For­Ukraine @State­Dept­Spox.
[…]
Psaki defended her photo.

“The people of Ukraine are fighting to have their voices heard and the benefit of communicating over social media is it sends a direct message to the people that we are with them, we support their fight, their voice and their future,” she said.

Now stop picking on Ms. Psaki, she’s not alone on this and at least she’s no longer using the hashtag #RussiaIsolated. The UK is set to start buying gas directly from Russia this fall despite threats  of  further sanctions against Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

In any case, here is the Selfie Collection, a work in progress:

UnitedforUkraine_Psaki

Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson

unitedofrukraine_stengel

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, and Ms. Psaki’s boss’s boss

Selfie Missing:  Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz, Ms. Psaki’s boss.

unitedofrukraine_evanryan

Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan

UFU_maconphillips

Coordinator for International Information Programs Macon Phillips

Selfie Missing: Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Alberto Fernandez

Unitedofrukraine_michellekwan

Michelle Kwan, State Department Senior Advisor

UFU_embassykyiv

Embassy Selfie:  Ambassador Pyatt with US Embassy Kyiv staff

 

Then our man in London, Ambassador Matthew Barzun ruined the fun and raised the bar with a Winfield House selfie via Vine:

 

Now we just need a selfie from the Russian bear.

Oops, wait … what’s this?  The Russian bear, missing a hashtag…

 

Google'd Putin riding a bear

 

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US Embassy London: Don’t Worry, Be Happy — New Digs Not Funded By Appropriated Funds

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— Domani 
Spero

The U.S. Ambassador to London Matthew Barzun used his new Tumblr to dispel possible misconceptions concerning the construction of the U.S. Embassy in London following reports of funding prohibitions under the FY2014 Omnibus:

I noticed a few news outlets this week reporting that funding for the construction of our new Embassy building may be removed. As this might cause concern among those excited and invested in the redevelopment of Nine Elms, I wanted to put minds at rest.

The new building project is being funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. Government properties in London, not through appropriated funds. This has always been the plan. The proposed Omnibus Spending Bill does not provide any new, additional, restrictions to that plan.

So, construction continues and each month we get closer to the opening day. In the meantime, every six months, the State Department will report to Congress on progress. Our shared future, in a new part of this great city, continues.

The above item is posted here: http://matthewbarzun.tumblr.com.

Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr

Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr

We should note that the State Department signed a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore to acquire a site in the Nine Elms Opportunity Area in Wandsworth for the construction of a new embassy back in oh, October 2008. That initial agreement was conditioned on the approval of the United States Congress and local planning authorities. In November 2009, the Department entered into an agreement to sell the Chancery in London, located in Grosvenor Square.  The sale is to Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company headquartered in Doha, Qatar.  Then Ambassador Robert Tuttle, President George W. Bush appointee from 2005-2009, led the search for a new site. The 2009 sale agreement with the Qatari company was signed by President Obama’s first appointee to London, Ambassador Louis B. Susman. In November 2013, President Obama’s second appointee to London, Ambassador Barzun presided the groundbreaking ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in the Nine Elms neighborhood in London.

While the sale of the U.S. Embassy property in Grosvenor Square was widely reported, the selling price was not widely known.  The London Evening Standard in 2009 reported that the embassy building was sold to Qatari Diar — the property development arm of the Qatari royal family — for an estimated £500 million (The report also noted that the 225,000 sq ft building could be worth as much as £1 billion when developed).  According to news report quoting Adam Namm, then acting director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (now current ambassador to Ecuador), the new embassy in London estimated to cost $1-billion would be “in the ballpark of the most expensive embassies we have built.”

The FY2014 Omnibus was signed into law by President Obama on January 17, 2014. The only reference to the U.S. Embassy in London that we could locate is under Sec. 7004 under Diplomatic Facilities (p.1148):

(e)(1) The limitation and reporting requirement regarding the New London Embassy contained in section 7004(f) of division I of Public Law 112–74 shall remain in effect during fiscal year 2014.

We dug up PL 112-74 to take a look. Here’s what it says:

(f)(1) None of the funds appropriated under the heading ‘‘Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance’’ in this Act and in prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, made available through Federal agency Capital Security Cost Sharing contributions and reimbursements, or generated from the proceeds of real property sales, other than from real property sales located in London, United Kingdom, may be made available for site acquisition and mitigation, planning, design or construction of the New London Embassy.

(2) Within 60 days of enactment of this Act and every 6 months thereafter until completion of the New London Embassy, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a report on the project: Provided, That such report shall include revenue and cost projections, cost containment efforts, project schedule and actual project status, the impact of currency exchange rate fluctuations on project revenue and costs, and options for modifying the scope of the project in the event that proceeds of real property sales in London fall below the total cost of the project.

So no appropriated funds and the funding prohibition in the proposed omnibus does not appear to be in the final version signed by the president. The reporting requirement remains the same at 60 days and every six months thereafter until the embassy is completed in 2017.

Now — if the cost of building a new one in London is about $1 billion and Congress did not and will not make any appropriation for its construction, then that sale price must have cost more than the estimated £500 million. Just an aside — the US Embassy in Iraq, the most expensive embassy we have built to completion todate was started in 2005 and was completed in 2008 at a total cost of $592 million. VOA reported cost of more than $600million, USAToday reported total cost of $700million and in June 2012, WaPo’s Walter Pincus reported cost at $700 million plus $115 million to upgrade.

In any case, two things can happen here: 1) total sale price covers all construction cost and new embassy debuts in 2017; 2) total sale price covers all construction cost of the new embassy but not potential technical/design adjustments or potential cost overruns. If #2 happens, Congress will, at least, have a 6-month notice. If Congress decides to pay expenses in excess of funds from sale, it has two more fy appropriation cycle to make funds available.  Or not. If that happens, the State Department will have to look for other sources of funding. It sits on an annual visa collection fees of over $3 billion, by the way, but that will need congressional approval. Also  Winfield House is on 12 acres of grounds in Regent’s Park, so there’s that.  The mansion reportedly only cost US taxpayers $1.00 when the USG bought it from American heiress Barbara Hutton after World War II. Of course, the mansion which serves as the ambassador’s residence is in the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property, so there’s that, too. Lots of ifs but that’s all potentially in the future, which should be far and away and uncomplicated unless you’re Doctor Who.

No, as far as we know … no, they’re not planning to auction you to pay for the new embassy.  But the groundbreaking just occurred a couple of months ago, so there’s a long ways to go.

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Presentation of Credentials: American Ambassadors to Manila, Santo Domingo, London

— Domani Spero

U.S. Embassy Philippines

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg presented his credentials to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, December 2 at the Malacañan Palace. (photo via US Embassy Manila/FB)

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg presented his credentials to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, December 2, 2013 at the Malacañan Palace. (photo via US Embassy Manila/FB). More photos here.

U.S. Embassy Dominican Republic

Ambassador Wally Brewster during his presentation of credentials to Presidente Danilo Medina at Palacio Nacional Dominicano on December 9, 2013. (photo via US Embassy DR/FB) More photos here.

Ambassador Wally Brewster during his presentation of credentials to President Danilo Medina at Palacio Nacional Dominicano on December 9, 2013.
(photo via US Embassy DR/FB) More photos here.

U.S. Embassy United Kingdom

Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr

Ambassador and Mrs. Barzun with Jacques, Eleanor, and Charles after the Credentialing Ceremony on November 27, 2013
Photo via US Embassy London/Flickr
(Click on image for additional photos)
Click here for the photo with the Queen  via The British Monarchy/Flickr.