WASHINGTON — Construction at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, has been plagued by delays and cost overruns that may have affected security, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.
But the Obama administration said the surge in U.S. forces years ago and now the subsequent drawdown of American personnel, among other factors, forced adjustments to the project.
"It is unrealistic to expect the development of a static master plan that would have captured all requirements at the beginning of an eight-year project," Lydia Muniz, director of the State Department's overseas buildings operations, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Lawmakers countered that war is, by nature, fluid.
"The added costs should have been baked in," said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., a committee member. "We shouldn't be shocked that a war broke out. There's been a war going on there for 10 or 12 years."
Costs for two construction contracts have increased by about 27 percent to $792.9 million, and completion has been delayed three years, the agency said. Despite the embassy's expansion, the State Department "has no security standards tailored to those facilities," the GAO said. The State Department inconsistently applied alternative security measures, the report said.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating what the agency says are the State Department's "insufficient and different levels of security for temporary offices and housing," according to the GAO report.
The report recommended that the State Department consider setting up security standards or guidance for temporary buildings in conflict zones.
The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.