by David Phinney
Friday September 25th 2020

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Strange Business Behind U.S. Embassy Contract in Baghdad

Jan. 21. 2007 — A fog of secrecy has shrouded the $592 million contract for building the US embassy ever since it was quietly awarded in Summer 2005 to a Kuwaiti contractor.

That, in itself, is odd. Framaco of New York, claims to have been the least expensive bid. One company source told me Framaco was $60 milion to $70 million less than First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, a.k.a., First Kuwaiti. (Update: Years later, the same Framaco source denied ever saying this and ended up as a sub-contractor on the project. I stand by my original reporting.)

Then there is the tale told by Cosmopolitan, Inc., of Columbia, Maryland. Cosmopolitan has been in the US embassy construction and renovation business for 22 years. The company specializes in secured and controlled access areas — just the kind of thing you might expect for the Baghdad project which is designed like Fort Apache on steroids. And, as an American firm, Cosmopolitan holds top security clearances — just the kind of thing a foreign firm can never qualify for.

In July 2005, Cosmopolitan says it was approached by the US State Department’s Overseas Buildings Operations division (OBO) and asked if the company would be interested in building the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. That’s very strange, if true. OBO was already soliciting competing bids for the project, which when completed will be the largest US embassy in the world — the size of Vatican City.
Cosmopolitan said, yes, of course, it would love to have the project.

Wonderful, Cosmopolitan recalls OBO as saying, but there was just one hitch: Cosmopolitan must use the subcontracting services of a Kuwaiti company called First Kuwaiti to do much of the general construction work.

Cosmopolitan says it then submitted a proposal. Then several meetings were conducted with James Golden the managing director for the Iraq Project at OBO who is managing the project to this day. A few months later, Cosmopolitan says it learned that First Kuwaiti had actually been awarded that very summer all the non-secured portions of the contract totaling nearly $592 million.

Very strange story… and there is a good deal more to tell. I’ll get back to it soon.

Time for a consolation prize: Cosmopolitan was invited to compete for the top-secret secured portion of the contract against two other cleared American contractors.

On January 3, 2006, OBO awarded Cosmopolitan the CAA Space Fit-Out Project at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Contract Number SALMEC-06-C-0008 in the amount of $21,761,235.00. The company was the lowest bidder. The Contract period would be for one year with an actual construction time of 5 months. Cosmopolitan Inc. began ramping up for deployment in March of 2006 and devoted all of its resources to the effort.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, First Kuwaiti began its work and was expected to finish much of the project before Cosmopolitan could begin. First Kuwaiti was responsible for all the non-secured areas of the structure and its portion of the work was to build the interior of the secured areas on the third and fourth floors, including the penthouse.

But each time Cosmopolitan requested a firm deployment date, OBO would stall. Cosmopolitan was informed that First Kuwaiti was experiencing delays. Cosmopolitan never received the final drawings.

OBO finally confessed that March would not be an acceptable date to deploy Cosmopolitan’s American workers with security clearances. The date was pushed back to August 1, 2006. Despite this delay and even without the final drawings, Cosmopolitan continued preparations with its workforce and coordinating life support for up to 100 Americans living in a war zone.

Beginning in May, Cosmopolitan says OBO began dodging phone calls and refusing to answer emails requests for meetings. Through the grapevine, the company heard in May 2006 that the final drawings were being circulated to other specialty subcontractors but they were not being released to Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan thought this strange but continued to believe that OBO would honor a signed contract with a contractor that had worked with the State Department for over two decades.

The company also heard through rumors that OBO was engaging two other contractors, Hardline, a company out of Virginia, and IAP, to give them a quote for the contract that Cosmopolitan was awarded and presently working on. Hardline is a subcontractor of First Kuwaiti and basically a door installer and IAP is a multi-billion dollar company that does not hold a clearance. Neither company has ever had any experience building or renovating a U.S. Embassy.

Finally, on May 26, 2006 Cosmopolitan would not wait any longer. It retained counsel and sent a request for a meeting On May 30th, 2006.

On the day of the meeting, OBO contracting officer David Vivian issued a Termination for Convenience for Cosmopolitan’s contract and canceled it. After this notice Cosmopolitan heard that Hardline was looking for personnel to deploy to Iraq, which was a troubling coincidence.

On June 1, 2006,Cosmopolitan attempted to telephone retired Army Maj. General Charles Williams, the director of OBO. He was unable to be reached. His executive secretary said his calendar was full and that Williams would be traveling overseas next week.

Cosmopolitan was left believing that that First Kuwaiti was behind schedule on its portion of the work and could not make the August 1, 2006 deadline. Furthermore, it did not want a contractor such as Cosmopolitan on site because the company knows what it is doing and would only accentuate First Kuwaiti’s shortcomings.

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One Response to “Strange Business Behind U.S. Embassy Contract in Baghdad”

  1. Regin says:

    So, the Iraqis didn’t invade and loot Kuwait?And set a few fires?And sold off many of the Kuwaiti goods in Iraqi makerts?Whatadever the veracadity of whatadever tesadtiadmony, Iraq attacked and looted Kuwait.From, a geopoadlitadiadcal viewadpoint, it may have made some sense to let theIraqis keep Kuwait, as it would have forced Saudi Araadbia to be beholden to the US fortheir conadtinadued exisadtence. Think of all the cheap Saudi oil we could have had in Ameradicaand the abiladity to destroy OPEC.

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