Saturday, August 14, 2010

Will There Be a New Fortress for Embassy Ankara?

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The WaPo has a story today quoting a recent State Department Inspector General report of inspection for U.S. Embassy Ankara, Turkey. Among other things, the report notes that we urgently need a new chancery facility in Ankara, something the IG had first reported after a 2004 inspection.

Yet the American embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul are so small and creaky -- and dangerous -- that other U.S. agencies housed in them (including the CIA, the FBI and the Agency for International Development) are ready to flee, according to an inspection report released Friday.

-- snip --

“The physical capacity of the section is finite. There is no cost-effective way to expand the capacity of the waiting room, which seats approximately 80 people. There is no space outside to add waiting room capacity as the waiting room is situated almost directly on a street.”

Everybody working there is fed up with the situation, the report suggested.

“Pressure is surfacing among some agencies to take their operations elsewhere in Turkey or even out of Turkey entirely because of their inability to meet their needs in the space allocated to them,” the report said.

“None of the buildings provides adequate or appropriate work space. Embassy sections and agencies are sometimes spread throughout the facilities in counterproductive ways. Annex II, a converted house, is particularly egregious and was described as ‘beyond Pluto’ by one of its denizens,” the report said.

“A recent fire in the Annex II boiler room could have had disastrous consequences and should be taken as a signal to push forward, with increased urgency, the issue of a new embassy compound.”

Point taken. We need a new embassy compound in Ankara. But we need one in many other places as well, and Congress won't fund everything at once, so priorities must be established.

And how does the State Department establish its new construction priorities? According to this publicly available source of information there is an annual exercise each summer in which the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations evaluate all new construction candidates and pick the winners.

It is summer now, so maybe Ankara will get good news in a couple months?

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