Chairman Lynch Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Congressional Oversight of Embassy Construction Projects
Washington D.C. (September 9, 2022)—Today, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, introduced H.R. 8779, the Embassy Construction Accountability Act, to strengthen Congressional oversight of the State Department’s construction of U.S. embassies and other overseas facilities.
Following the release of a February 2020 State Department Office of Inspector General report, which detailed persistent delays during construction of a new embassy compound (NEC) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the Subcommittee on National Security began to conduct oversight to examine the underlying failures that have contributed to tens of millions of dollars in excess costs that American taxpayers will now shoulder to complete the Ashgabat NEC.
“Significant delays in U.S. embassy construction projects impair the effectiveness of our foreign missions, threaten the safety of diplomatic, consular, and other U.S. personnel stationed overseas, and often come at the expense of U.S. taxpayer dollars,” Chairman Lynch said. “By enhancing Congressional oversight, the Embassy Construction Accountability Act will allow Congress to more quickly identify serious lapses during embassy construction and promptly work with the State Department to ensure these critical projects are completed on-time and on-budget and serve the interests of U.S. national security and the American taxpayer.”
Under current law, the State Department must submit a biannual report to Congress on all ongoing overseas capital construction projects and major embassy security upgrades. This report must include initial and current cost estimates and the date of the project’s estimated completion. However, the Department is not currently required to provide Congress with substantive details or explanations regarding any significant cost overruns or delays.
The Embassy Construction Accountability Act would address this gap and enhance Congressional oversight of the State Department’s overseas construction projects by requiring the Department to report to Congress about significant delays or cost increases as they accrue during construction of overseas diplomatic facilities.
Specifically, the bill requires the Department to submit an in-depth explanation of the factors that contributed to cost increases or delays for applicable construction projects that have experienced at least a 15% increase in cost or six-month or more delay. Under H.R. 8779, the Department must also provide Congress with explanations of how it will mitigate the operational and financial risks associated with such cost increases or delays. Moreover, the Department must report whether it has issued a stop-work order or suspended work on a given project and submit an explanation for such action.
The Committee has a long record of conducting oversight of embassy construction projects, including investigations into waste, fraud, and, abuse during construction of embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as holding hearings on how design decisions affect embassy security.
Click here to read the text of the Embassy Construction Accountability Act.
Click here to read a fact sheet about the cost overruns and delays incurred during the construction of the new embassy compound in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.