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StateSide:News
RUMOR MILL
More Money, Time for New Baghdad Embassy
Slogger Hearing Rumors About State Department's Supplemental Budget Request
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 09/27/2007 10:34 AM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Cranes litter the skyline as construction workers continue work on the new United States Embassy compound in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on August 31, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Cranes litter the skyline as construction workers continue work on the new United States Embassy compound in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on August 31, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Ambassador John Negroponte did not provide any documentation supporting the State Department's $2 billion supplemental budget request during this week's appropriations hearings, but IraqSlogger has been hearing rumors about where $100 million of it will be going--the new US embassy in Baghdad.

The embassy had been slated to open this month, but IraqSlogger has learned that shoddy construction, unsafe wiring, leaking water pipes, and unfinished work by the contractor building the compound looks likely to delay the project's completion by at least a year.

An individual present at a State Department briefing on the subject earlier this week tells IraqSlogger that new contractors are to be hired for work that could "mask the construction problems of the original work," adding, "If this planning goes forward, all of the defective and incomplete work on the Embassy project will be hidden forever."

First Kuwaiti, the contractor responsible for the original $592 million contract to build the US embassy compound in Baghdad, has come under Justice Department and Congressional scrutiny for alleged labor abuses on the project.

The State Department Inspector-General's superficial investigation of reported labor and construction problems with the embassy have recently sparked charges of a cover-up by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs, which intends to hold further hearings on the subject.

Two weeks ago, Chairman Henry Waxman sent a sharply-worded letter to State IG Howard Krongard laying out a number of reports his committee had received about construction problems at the embassy.

* First Kuwaiti had not built blast-resistant walls as required by the contract.

* When kitchen facilities at the camp were first tested on May 14,2007, the electrical system short-circuited and the wires melted. An inspection then revealed that First Kuwaiti had used "counterfeit" electrical wire.

* A subcontractor working did not adequately de-mine the embassy compound or conduct a survey of underground tunnels at the site to identify security risks.

Iraqslogger sources indicate that construction problems at the new embassy compound in Baghdad are much more extensive, but nothing that another year of work and an additional $100 million dollars can't fix.

IraqSlogger's David Phinney (phinneydavid@yahoo.com) is tracking down a number of leads related to this story and will follow-up when more information becomes available.

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