The Washington Post

With U.S. troops leaving Iraq, State Dept. bulks up

With U.S. troops pulling out of Iraq, the State Department is going to require its own special, secure buildings to serve as tactical operations centers around the country — equipment that is going to run about $21 million.

These aren’t ordinary buildings. Rather, they are to hold classified systems for monitoring staff movements and to store, process and transmit classified information. They also have to have “forced entry/ballistic resistant” construction and “overhead cover to provide protection from indirect fire,” according to a State Department document.

Considered “core controlled access areas,” they require using “U.S. sourced materials, cleared U.S. labor for design and construction,” and they have to be tested and certified by State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Luckily, down in Rayne, La., the State Department seems to have found what it was looking for.

Officials recently awarded a contract to MBI, a firm headquartered in Rayne that has previously built modular “Relocatable Tactical Operations Centers” for both the U.S. military and for State.

The four State facilities involved in Iraq are the U.S. Embassy branch offices in Mosul and Kirkuk, and support sites at Sather Air Force Base (part of Baghdad International Air Field) and Joint Security Station Shield (once the home in Baghdad of the Law and Order Task Force and a battery from a U.S. field artillery regiment).

Since the four are supposed to be operational by Oct. 1, the MBI contract was awarded without competitive bidding because the tactical operations centers must be assembled on site by Aug. 1; the systems, antenna and other special features need to be certified by State’s security people by Sept. 1.

State acknowledges that “the long-term need for such facilities at locations throughout Iraq cannot be determined,” thus they are relocatable. State even suggests they could be redeployed to Afghanistan or elsewhere. But right now they are being assembled in modular parts at MBI facilities, apparently by U.S. personnel for security reasons, before being shipped to Iraq.

Walter Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy for The Washingon Post. He first came to the paper in 1966 and has covered numerous subjects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, politics and congressional investigations. He was among Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.



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