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U.S. military’s Afghan HQ opens just in time for possible demolition

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$34 million military building

Photo courtesy, SIGAR

By one estimate, it’s one of the best constructed facilities in Afghanistan, but soon the $34 million military center in Hemland province could be torn down because, well, it turns out troops are leaving and the U.S. government might not have really needed the building in the first place.

Special Office of Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko outlined the scope and history of the expensive problem in a letter this week to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, which you can read about here.

But for a virtual tour of the building’s clean, spacious and barren offices and meeting rooms, the IG’s office has posted a set of photos online.

No doubt, it’s a spacious facility, but there’s just one thing missing: people.

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GSA picks spot for new S.C. courthouse

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The General Services Administration will begin design work this fall on a new federal courthouse in Greenville, S.C.

After more than a year of deliberations, GSA picked a vacant lot across from the Greenville County Courthouse for the new facility, city officials announced Wednesday.

The 204,000-square-foot facility will be more than three times the size of the current courthouse, which was built in 1937. The new courthouse was estimated to cost $135 million in 2007, according to local news website Journalwatchdog.com.

Construction won’t begin until at least 2013, but Congress has already given the facility its new name. Lawmakers voted in 2006 to name the new courthouse the Carroll A. Campbell Jr. U.S. Courthouse, after the popular former governor who died in 2005.

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Obama gives unions edge in construction projects

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President Barack Obama wants agencies to consider requiring contractors on large-scale federal construction projects to enter into collective bargaining agreements.

In an executive order issued this afternoon, Obama said the White House would encourage agencies to require so-called project labor agreements for facility, highway or other construction projects totaling at least $25 million. The union contracts would establish work rights and labor dispute procedures for all employees working for a contractor or subcontractor on a specific construction project.

Obama said such work rules would ensure big construction projects don’t get bogged down by disputes among various companies working on a single project.

Obama’s order re-establishes procedures that were in place under President Clinton that were overturned by President George W. Bush.

The full text of the order is after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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FBI salaries = wasteful pork?

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House Republicans yesterday unveiled a list of spending items in the stimulus bill that they called wasteful. One item in particular jumped out at me: “$75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.”

Gregg Carlstrom last week highlighted Republican reluctance to pay for new cars for federal employees, but Republicans have also criticized many more line items affecting feds. Even though the construction industry is facing its own hardships in the economy, the GOP feels that building, renovating or repairing facilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Homeland Security Department, State Department and Public Health Service would also be wasteful.

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A billion here, a billion there…

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As construction spending nationwide continues to decline, many builders are hoping for a big boost thanks to the economic stimulus package being drafted in Congress.

Details of the massive package — likely to total $750 billion or more — haven’t been fleshed out, but billions no doubt will be included to fund construction of new homes, offices, roads and utilities.

With that in mind, the Associated General Contractors of America has just released a detailed summary of how $1 billion in new construction spending would benefit each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the nation at a whole.

Nationwide, for example, $1 billion in nonresidential construction spending would boost the national economy (as measured by the Gross Domestic Product) by $3.4 billion and create or sustain 28,500 jobs.  When multipled by the many tens of billions likely to be included in the stimulus package, it’s clear that the upfront spending on construction projects would pay out big dividends across the board.

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Where have all the building projects gone?

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As we’re reporting in today’s Federal Times, dozens of federal building projects are on hold because of the worsening credit crisis.

The problem is especially severe for so-called build-to-suit lease projects, which are new facilities built to agency specifications and owned by private developers, then leased back to the government. The General Services Administration has nearly four dozen such projects on standby right now, some dating back five years.

Hours after we wrapped up this week’s issue on Friday, the General Services Administration provided us an updated list of the projects that are on hold.  Most of the buildings are for the FBI, but a number of other agencies are affected too.

It just goes to show that no one, not even the federal government, is immune to the slumping economy.

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