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Afghanistan: Kabul Embassy Construction Costs Have Increased and Schedules Have Been Extended

GAO-14-661R Published: Jul 08, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 08, 2014.
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What GAO Found

In 2009 and 2010, the Department of State (State) awarded two contracts totaling $625.4 million to meet growing facility requirements at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. In 2009, State awarded a $209.4 million contract to Contractor 1 for the design and construction of temporary offices and housing as well as permanent structures to include an office annex A, apartment building 1, a cafeteria and recreation center, perimeter security and compound access facilities, a warehouse addition, and a utility building. In 2010, State awarded a $416 million contract to Contractor 2 for the design and construction of office annex B, apartment buildings 2 and 3, expansion of existing apartment building 4, compound access and perimeter security facilities, and parking facilities. State's plans called for sequencing construction under the two contracts. In September 2011, State partially terminated the permanent facilities requirements in the Contractor 1 contract for the convenience of the U.S. government due to concerns, in part, about performance and schedule delays. Contractor 1 completed the temporary offices and housing units. In September 2011, State transferred contract requirements for the permanent facilities not begun by Contractor 1 to Contractor 2's contract and extended the completion date from January 2016 to July 2016.

Since the two contracts were awarded in 2009 and 2010, construction requirements have changed, costs have increased, and schedules have been extended. The new office annexes under construction will contain 1,237 desks, a nearly 60 percent increase over the 778 desks originally planned. State is also building space for 661 beds, about 50 more than originally planned. Contract costs for construction have increased by nearly 24 percent, from $625.4 million to $773.9 million as of May 2014. The overall project schedule has also been extended. State had originally planned to complete all construction on the compound by the end of summer 2014; the contractual delivery date for all permanent facilities is currently July 2016. Factors affecting the project include (1) increases in numbers and changes in composition of embassy staffing requirements; (2) risks introduced by State during planning, such as tightly sequencing the work of two contractors on one construction site; (3) constructing new facilities on an occupied compound in a conflict environment; (4) contractor performance delays and transfer of construction requirements from one contract to another; (5) and delays and changes to shipping routes of building materials due to difficulties with shipments transiting through Pakistan.

It is difficult to determine whether current projects and existing facilities will meet future embassy needs. As the U.S. military draws down its presence in Afghanistan, State will have to decide whether to engage support contractors to replace life-support services currently provided by the military, such as food, water, fuel, and medical services. Such changes may affect embassy staffing. Future composition of U.S. agencies, staffing levels, and embassy facility needs continue to be subject to change. Once current contracts are completed, the Kabul embassy's permanent facilities--both older and newly constructed buildings--are to contain 1,487 desks and 819 beds. Projected embassy staffing for 2015 is approximately 600 U.S. direct hires and 1,100 locally employed staff. State is working to identify its and other agencies' desk positions (both U.S. direct hires and locally employed staff) that will occupy the new office space. State is also conducting a master planning study to address on-compound facility needs unmet by current construction.

Why GAO Did This Study

Since re-opening in 2002, the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, experienced a dramatic increase in staffing, followed by a gradual drawdown. To address space needs, the Department of State (State) awarded two contracts totaling $625.4 million to construct additional housing and office facilities on the embassy compound. GAO reviewed (1) contracts State put in place to construct new U.S. embassy facilities in Kabul starting in 2009; (2) the extent to which construction requirements, cost, or schedule have changed, and the reasons for the changes; and (3) the extent to which the present expansion matches projected needs. To conduct this work, GAO obtained and evaluated construction planning and contract documents, interviewed State and contractor officials, and traveled to Kabul in February 2014 to perform fieldwork.

For information, contact Michael J. Courts at (202) 512-8980 or at or David Wise at (202) 512-5731 or at

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