Cablegate: Reo Basrah Housing

DE RUEHBC #0078 2670856
P R 230856Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: REO Basra's most immediate goal is to be
able to capitalize on improved security conditions by
significantly increasing movements in and out of Basra Air
Station (BAS). Completion of 45 ballistic housing units (BHUs)
will add 90 additional rooms and will enable the REO to bring
112 additional Triple Canopy (TC) security guards and Personal
Security Detachment (PSD) personnel. The additional guard force
will enable REO Basra to make movements independently outside
the BAS.. In the end, the REO's population will increase to 307
personnel, which will occupy all available living space. The
improved security situation in Basra has sparked much interest
among other USG agencies and international organizations to
establish a presence at the REO. Unfortunately, these
expectations should be tempered by the fact that the housing
shortage will continue even after the 45 BHUs are completed.
Additional housing units will have to be built before the REO
can accommodate any increase in population. Now is the time to
evaluate and plan for additional requirements beyond what has
already been factored into the plan. End Summary

Background and Current Status

2. (SBU) The BHU contract was awarded by KBR to a British
firm called "Reyam" in May 2007, at a cost of $2.5 million
after a competitive bidding process. Construction began in
September 2007, with an expected completion date of March 2008.
Reyam, however, encountered difficulties with the management of
the local labor force. In addition, the company itself also had
financial problems throughout. Even 6 months after the original
expected completion date, Reyam is still struggling to complete
the project. As a result of all the problems, beginning around
the middle of August, KBR, the prime contractor for the project,
brought in additional resources of their own to help complete
the work. According to the KBR Project Manager on site, he
expects completion by the middle of November 2008.

Full House from the Moment the Ribbon is Cut
--------------------------------------------- ------------------

3. (SBU) The 45 BHUs represent 90 rooms, which will bring
the total number of rooms to 172. Most of the additional rooms
will house the new 112 TC guards and will reduce the level of
overcrowding under the overhead cover - currently, more than 200
people literally squeeze into living spaces, sometimes 3 or 4 to
a room, that were originally designed to house only 80 people.
The majority of the rooms will be double occupancy and are
already projected to be fully occupied. The total REO
population will increase to about 307 after the expansion.

Need to Manage Expectations

4. (SBU) The improved security situation in Basra has
sparked much interest among other USG agencies and international
organizations to establish a presence at the REO. However, REO
Basra will not be able to accommodate any new personnel beyond
what has already been planned, unless new housing is built. In
fact, if the REO were to be staffed to full authorized strength,
we would face an immediate shortage of five rooms.

5. (SBU) Comment: We foresee growing interest in using the
REO as a platform (housing, life support, logistics, movements
and security), not only for State Department personnel, but also
for a growing number of other USG agencies and VIP visitors.
Even with the new housing, if/when it is completed, Embassy
demands will probably continue to outstrip REO capacities,
especially if some unlikely, yet viable, contingencies are
considered. For example, the REO already houses some American
PRT members and their contractors. But the PRT, being that it
does not fall under the REO, was never factored into REO housing
requirements. The new expansion was designed to fulfill
existing REO requirements, not possible future PRT ones. If at
some point in the future the UK-led PRT were to become a US PRT,
new housing would be required. Any such future staffing
requirements for the REO should be evaluated carefully and
approved by the REO, OPA, and the Embassy Management Office. It
is not too early to begin planning for such contingencies, in
case they become real. End Comment


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