Saturday, November 27, 2021

New Embassy Compound Beirut - Why Will it Take a Decade and a Billion $$$ ?

Part of me is thrilled to no end that U.S. Embassy Beirut will, sooner or later, move out of its dinky and haphazard present facilities in East Beirut and into a big, purpose-built, New Embassy Complex. That is an occasion we've been waiting for ever since the previous embassy was destroyed by a suicide truck bomb in 1983, and then the East Beirut embassy annex itself was partially destroyed by a second suicide bomber in 1984. 

1983? 1984? What a long time ago. How many current State Department employees had not yet been born in those years? That replacement embassy has been a long time coming.

Not to spoil my good mood, but what explains the insanely long time between the start of the project and its projected completion date?     


As Diplopundit noted back in 2017, the project broke ground in April 2017, after a construction contract was awarded in December 2016, with completion anticipated in 2022. The design phase of the project was initiated in 2013 when a contract was awarded to Morphosis Architects

Morphosis? The same firm that designed the roundly hated Federal building in San Francisco? The building that has been called a green nightmare? The building that came in dead last in a GSA survey of employee post-occupancy satisfaction? Yes, the same. 

I know nothing from architecture, but I can easily understand all the hate for a 15-story office building in which the elevators stop only at every third floor, where the employees can't have window shades to cut down on sun glare, where there is no heating or air conditioning (except in the manager's offices!), where there is no on-site cafe or restaurant for its 2,400 employees but there is a public plaza that attracted so much crime, trash, and drug use that it is now getting a big forbidding perimeter fence

To be fair, Morphosis' San Francisco design has also gotten some awards, however, none of them came from the poor wretches who have to work there. 

But enough said of the new embassy's architecture. I'm far more concerned about the project schedule.

Judging entirely from the embassy and Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) press releases, it appears the plan was to spend five long years in the design phase - 2013 to 2017 - followed by another five long years in the construction phase. Project delays have now pushed the anticipated completion date out yet another year into 2023. But understand this: OBO intended to spend an entire decade to get that new embassy completed.

That is outrageous. I mean no offense to my good friends in OBO - and they really are my friends, I mean that sincerely - but WHAT WERE YOU THINKING when you approved a plan to build a new embassy in Beirut that would take an entire decade to complete? I'll put aside the matter of the 1+ billion dollar cost. Whatever happened to the sense of urgency that was the entire reason for the Capital Security Construction Program? 

A plain utilitarian office and residential compound that took half as long to complete as one of Morphosis' eccentric masterpieces would have been a far better choice.

Embassy Beirut employees have been living and working in a ramshackle collection of buildings on a hastily-secured compound for 37 years and counting. Granted the security environment in Lebanon is not so acute now as it once was, but still, Hizbollah has pretty much free run of the place so speed really ought to have been a much higher priority for OBO than whatever design excellence whim-wham it is that Morphosis is bringing so very slowly.


Anonymous said...

WOW! TSB; That is amazing! Along those same lines: The USG under supervisio of Peter Dazak funneled $82 billion to the UofSouthern California for work on te Corona virusvaccine project since 2013 but only 350 million to Wuhan. So it's not really the Wuhan virus; really the 'WHO-FLU or the "Warp Speed" vaccines.

That's why it turns out all the Botswanna Variant victims vere ALREADY VACCINATED, AND WHY IT WILL HIT THE MOST VACCINATED AREAS THE HARDEST! Big money plunder is the order of this era... and i hear CNN is starting a news department.gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I'm sure we all know lots of people who have been scammed by online offers
that have monthly charges promising "cancel anytime" that turn out to be very difficult to cancel. I discovered last nite the FTC RECENTLY MADE THIS ILLEGAL! FTC Cracks Down On Misleading Subscriptions by
Steve Lehto The Seattle Times has me on the wrong end of a $1,200 bill over the past 5 years! My credit card Co couldn't believe how they did this.gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: 6 "Illegals attempting to shoplift were run out of the nearby StopNShot on Friday in my daughter's neighborhood. There are a lot of "GO Brandon" signs in people's yards and Angie has been practicing shooting her 12 gauge double barrelled repeating shotgun.I don't think they will steal my goat. She has dynamite on both ends. gwb

Anonymous said...

Lol, good!

TSB said...


I don't know where Congress and its oversight committees have been hiding while this Beirut project has been slowly, slowly, unfolding, but this is one case where I would strongly approve of a hearing featuring the most histrionic and hypocritical congressmen they're got on Capitol Hill.

To quote the Transylvanian police chief in Young Frankenstein, "a mob is an ugly thing, und, I think it's just about time we had one!"

Anonymous said...

Hezbollah will probably blow it up some day.

TSB said...

Anon, thanks for your comment. Years ago we did, indeed, select and then give up on a different new construction site in Beirut because Hezbollah had taken over that neighborhood.

Hezbollah, or anyone else in Lebanon, may well attack the new embassy if they are willing to take the consequences. No one has for the last 37 years.

But at least that new embassy will have vastly better physical defenses than the improvised one that our diplomats have been working from for the last four decades.

So long as the USG finds a compelling reason for a diplomatic presence in Beirut, the staff there deserve a reasonable level of security commensurate with the threat.