Embassy is deemed substantially complete but it still is not open.
Embassy is deemed substantially complete but it still is not open.


Waxman, a California Democrat, on Feb. 29 sent a sharply worded letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, detailing a litany of shortcomings at the project. He questioned a department official’s decision in December to declare the building “substantially complete,” when Waxman says his committee received evidence suggesting certification “was premature and suspect.”

Waxman also cites a Feb. 13 report from State Dept. inspectors that identified “deficiencies, both critical and non-critical, in most buildings” on the site and “major deficiencies in the infrastructure.” Adds Waxman: “The report finds numerous construction defects at the embassy that should have precluded a finding of substantial compliance.”

Among the problems State Dept. inspectors identified were an incomplete fire-alarm system and “critical deficiencies” in the pump that sends water through underground mains to the buildings’ sprinkler systems. Draft reports from an inspection firm hired by project contractor First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co. also found deficiencies in some critical fire-suppression systems, including water supply, alarms and sprinklers, Waxman says.

In July 2007, Charles E. Williams, then director of the State Dept.’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, said that the project was scheduled for completion in September 2007. In November, Patrick Kennedy, under secretary of state for management, told the panel that the embassy was being inspected and the inspections showed that the quality of the work was “reasonably good.” Kennedy said the department would not accept the embassy until the project was “done and done right.”

State Dept. spokesman Tom Casey said in a Feb. 29 briefing that work on the project is ongoing. “We certainly have no intention of taking occupancy or establishing occupancy in a facility that doesn’t fully meet all our standards,” he said. The House oversight committee has slated a March 12 hearing to assess the Baghdad project’s status.

ouse Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman sees continuing problems at the troubled U.S. embassy project in Baghdad. The complex was to open last September but now is more than five months late, and State Dept. officials have not given a new completion date. The project’s cost has climbed from an initial $592 million to $736 million.