Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Most Expensive Embassy in the World?

The Baghdad New Embassy Compound (NEC) which sits on a 104-acre site (420,873 square meters), infamously compared to the size of the Vatican officially opened in January 2009.  The Baghdad NEC which was delayed for a year originally cost $592 million but was completed at a reported cost of $736 million. 

It looks like the US Embassy in Baghdad will continue to be the largest embassy in the world in terms of size but it might get nudged off the top list as the most expensive.  NEC and housing project in Pakistan is estimated at $670-830 million (see this). Since NEC projects in Kabul and Baghdad went over the original award amounts, I suspect that this one in Pakistan will be closer to $830M (or higher) than $670M; which would make it more expensive than the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul, which had been closed in January 1989 for security reasons, officially reopened as an embassy on January 17, 2002. According to the GAO, State decided to replace the embassy in Kabul and brought the construction project to the front of the 2002 schedule following the U.S. and allied military action there that responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks.  The Kabul NEC was a $115 million cost-plus contract completed six months after the amended completion date of May 2005, and at a higher contract amount of $147 million.

Last year, the State Department issued a prequalification solicitation for SAQMMA-09-R0072 which included a housing and annex building project at an estimated design-build cost of $175-200 million. It was reported cancelled three days after it was announced.  The current solicitation includes “permanent staff housing facilities” for 420 beds.  I wonder if that cancelled solicitation was folded into this one. If so, the Kabul NEC with this latest expansion would amount to approximately $590 million. This would make it the 3rd most expensive US mission, after Islamabad and Baghdad. Is that right?  And we're not even talking yet about operational costs.     


TSB said...

I'm sure you're right that Islamabad will eventually be our most expensive capital construction project. The budget is based on a 5-year plan, and what are the odds that there will not be unforeseen disruptions during the next five years in Pakistan?

Baghdad is #2 but the meter is still running, since new facilities are always being added there.

Kabul is #3 with a bullet, as new annexes, etc., get built on top of the completed facilities.

My best guess is that new embassy London ( will eventually replace Islamabad in the #1 slot, due to the high cost of land and construction.

And, to be fair to OBO, I will note that the U.S. Congress built a Capitol Visitors Center for $621 million ( and took only six years to do it.

diplopundit said...

Thanks TSB! I was hoping you would wade in. CVC construction duly noted. Also I totally forgot about the London Embassy. I agree with you that it may eventually supplant US Embassy Islamabad as the most expensive. I wonder which one is the most expensive in operational cost to run. I note that it'll cost $1.5B - $1.8B to run the US Embassy in Baghdad. But I imagine that some of our European missions are probably quite expensive, too.