Interagency squabbling may open the door for more terrorist attacks on United States embassies overseas.
A government report issued Nov. 16 by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, features letters from officials at a number of federal agencies who are protesting a plan to have them put money into construction of safer embassies. By having the State Department, which normally foots the entire bill for these projects, joined by the other agencies, stronger, safer embassies could be built in less time and provide more safety for the U. S. diplomatic corps.
The plan was suggested by the GAO in a report filed in October, which was featured in the Oct. 2 Turner Report. That report suggested that wasteful construction policies being followed by the U. S. Agency for International Development and the U. S. State Department are increasing the chances that other U. S. embassy employees may meet the same fate as Lamar's Kenneth Hobson who died as as result of an Al Qaeda attack on an embassy in Kenya in 1998.
The GAO report indicated that a construction policy is increasing not only the danger, but the cost of building embassies.It was Aug. 19, 1998, that more than 500 people crowded into the Thiebaud Auditorium in Lamar to say their goodbyes to Staff Sgt. Hobson, who was killed 12 days earlier. Hobson was only 27 years old, had a wife and daughter.
The attacks on the embassies were precursors to the Sept. 11 assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
After the bombing of that embassy in Kenya that the U. S. began a multibillion-dollar, multiyear program to "build new, secure facilities on compounds at posts around the world," according to the GAO report. The Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 requires that all offices for the embassies be located in the compounds. The embassy compounds have been built in stages, the report said, with the primary portion of the embassy being built, then later an annex for the officeworkers.
During the time the annex is being built, the officeworkers are being house in temporary quarters."Staff who remain in a temporary facility after other U. S. government personnel move into a new embassy compound may be more vulnerable to terrorist attack because the temporary facility does not meet security standards for new buildings and may be perceived to be a 'softer' target relative to the new, more secure embassy compound," the report said.Current plans call for this approach to be followed through the year 2009.
The GAO recommended concurrent construction and suggested building the offices within the compound instead of in annexes. "Concurrent construction would eliminate the second expensive mobilization of contractor staff and equipment and added supervision, security, and procurement support expenses that result from nonconcurrent construction," the report said.
Building the office quarters concurrently with the compounds at the next nine embassy construction sites could save taxpayers $35 million, the report said.
After the release of the initial GAO report, government agencies responded overwhelmingly in a negative fashion, according to the follow-up report. Comments opposing the cost-sharing proposal came from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and the U. S. Agency for International Development. The State Department was the only department that approved of the plan.
The Capital Security Cost-Sharing Program was developed to accelerate construction of 150 new secure embassies around the world. By using the cost-share program, the report indicated, the construction could be completed by the year 2018 rather than the originally estimated 2030.
The 1998 attacks on embassies in Kenya and Tanzania led to the creation of an Overseas Presence Advisory Panel to review the condition, management, organization, and other aspects of the U. S. embassies.
In 1999, the panel issued a report saying that the U. S. overseas presence "was near a state of crisis and that the condition of U. S. posts and missions abroad was unacceptable."
The panel recommended the construction of the new, safer embassies.
If the recommendations of the initial GAO report are not implemented it could take an extra dozen years for American personnel overseas to be safe. The territorial reaction of these government agencies is not presenting a united front against terrorism.
And where have the major news organizations been while this has been going on? A Lexis-Nexis search of major news organizations indicate that no stories have written about the GAO embassy construction reports during the past three months.
A spokesman for Cox Communications, the company that owns and operates the cable systems in Carthage and Lamar, is accusing Nexstar officials of violating FCC guidelines. The accusation came as Nexstar is preparing to pull the plug on KSNF and KODE-TV in both communities in 24 days.
"The FCC does require broadcasters to participate in good-faith negotiations," Cox spokesman Dave Graubert told Multichannel News. "I don't think Nexstar has really lived up to that."
A federal court judge signed an order earlier today allowing lawyers for Jasper County officials to question a convicted child molester who filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the county. An interview with Martin Anthony Eck will be set up when it is convenient for prison officials, according to the order.
Eck is suing Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn, Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface, Associate Commissioner Jim Honey, and former Associate Commissioner Anna Ruth Crampton, among others, for $100 million, claiming he did not receive proper dental care while he was in the jail awaiting trial on the child molestation charges.
Eck pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court in November to two counts of statutory sodomy in connection with incidents involving a 12-year-old girl. The Joplin Globe reported that Eck had been convicted of child molestation 11 years ago in Gordon County, GA. He was sentenced to 20 years, but the sentence was suspended and he was allowed to move to Joplin a few years later, where he was under the supervision of the probation office here, according to the article.