Saturday, April 10, 2021

Fortress Embassies to be Fully Funded in the New FY

(CG Guadalajara, according to an OBO design contractor) 

I love the architect's-pastel-watercolor-rendering stage of new embassy construction. The buildings never look half as good in execution as they do in the imagination. It's practically theater of the mind stuff. 

Well, there will be more such happy architectural dreaming this year because the new international affairs budget request has been published and it did not forget my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. They are looking at handling another year of capital security construction projects, i.e., new Fortress Embassies. 

It's on page 29 of the FY21 Congressional Budget Justification:
EMBASSY SECURITY, CONSTRUCTION, AND MAINTENANCE - The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), funded through the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance (ESCM) appropriation, is responsible for providing U.S. diplomatic and consular missions overseas with secure, safe, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support the Department’s staff in their work to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities represent the best of American planning, design, engineering, construction, and facility management.
The FY 2021 Request is $1.7 billion. The work supported by this request is vital, as more than 93,000 U.S. Government employees from more than 30 agencies at over 291 locations depend on the infrastructure OBO provides and maintains. The FY 2021 Request includes the Department of State’s share of the $2.2 billion Capital Security and Maintenance Cost Sharing Programs to construct and maintain, new, secure facilities, and $100 million to address deferred maintenance for State’s non-cost shared facilities
Which lucky posts will get the next round of safe, secure, and functional new facilities? That is a carefully risk-managed decision, as is explained in this publicly available source of information:
OBO will continue to construct diplomatic facilities based on the Department's list of the most vulnerable facilities and to address other security concerns overseas consistent with available resources. This Vulnerability List, published each year by DS, ranks posts according to their vulnerability across different security threats. The process for identifying and prioritizing projects begins with a review of the Vulnerability List mandated by SECCA. The Vulnerability List is then used to establish the Top 80 list that helps OBO to prioritize facilities that need to reduce security vulnerability. In addition to new construction projects, OBO must also design and construct security upgrades to existing facilities. 
That sounds like a tricky business, but I assume whoever it is in DS who ranks overseas posts according to their vulnerability to security threats must know what he or she is doing.

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