The State Dept.’s embassy construction program continues to chip away at its list of facilities that need to be replaced or renovated. State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) on Oct. 6 announced construction awards totaling more than $1.3 billion.
The awards are for five major projects, four of which were funded with fiscal 2017 dollars, according to the State Dept. The government is operating through Dec. 8 on a stopgap spending measure, so final 2018 embassy construction numbers are unclear.
In the recent batch of awards, Montgomery, Ala.-based Caddell Construction Co. was the big winner, with three contracts. The largest contract is for a new, $554.7-million embassy compound in Mexico City. Caddell also received a $207.6-million award to renovate the Athens embassy and a $153.1-million contract for an embassy annex in Nairobi.
B.L. Harbert International, Birmingham, Ala., won a $287.6-million contract to build an embassy complex in Guatemala City, and Pernix Group Inc., Lombard, Ill., was awarded a $138-million contract for an embassy annex in Kampala, Uganda.
President Trump’s 2018 budget proposed to slash embassy security, construction and maintenance accounts 62%, to $1.1 billion. But congressional appropriators rejected the cut. The House-passed 2018 spending bill has $2.3 billion for the embassy accounts; the Senate Appropriations Committee called for $2.06 billion.
The Senate panel also said some embassy projects “are exceeding cost and schedule.” They want the State Dept. to review its construction processes and see if changes are needed. Under the Obama administration, OBO shifted from its earlier emphasis on standardized design to a design and construction “excellence” approach.
Jordan Howard, Associated General Contractors of America director of federal and heavy construction, says Congress has “sort of been on OBO’s case” for several years about project costs but says lawmakers seem unlikely in the near future to mandate changes.