Project to protect Egyptian temples gets more funding
Amid surging violence in the Mideast, from Gaza to Syria to Iraq, the Obama administration is stepping up efforts in Egypt to preserve a multi-deity temple to the “creator god” Horus and the “crocodile god” Sobek.
After footing a multi-million-dollar bill to help the government of Egypt lower the water level at the Temple of Kom Ombo and other archeological sites, U.S. taxpayers are now shelling out more cash to extend the project beyond its contractual end date, according to procurement documents WND discovered via routine database research.
The Groundwater Lowering Activity for Pharaonic Monuments Areas initiative seeks to reduce the impact of water runoff onto Egypt’s historic sites, even though the problem by the administration’s own admission largely stems from irresponsible agricultural practices.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, awarded a sole-source, no-bid contract extension to CDM International to continue providing Egypt with engineering services related to the design of water-runoff systems.
Opening the extended project to competitive bidding would be costly and unnecessarily impede the project’s progress, a Justification & Approval, or J&A, document says.
Construction of these systems – which divert water runoff to wells to reduce erosion of monument stones – comes with separate costs and will be handled by additional contractors, according to the J&A.
USAID paid nearly $3 million to CDM for the latest “task order” for services performed from Sept. 30, 2013, through June 30. The extension will cost an additional $3.8 million over three years for additional engineering design services.
The U.S. over the past decade has given about $20 million for such historic preservation endeavors through the American Research Center in Egypt, or ARCE, a private nonprofit established in Boston in 1948.
USAID estimates the federal government in the past 30 years provided more than $100 million toward Egyptian monument projects led by ARCE and other organizations.
Discovery of the latest endeavor comes as the administration – largely with congressional support – is requesting $1.5 billion in assistance to Egypt for FY 2015, a slight drop from last year but relatively consistent with budget requests of the past five years.
Despite being one of the top recipients of U.S. assistance – occupying the No. 2 spot behind Israel – Egypt only received portions of approved aid totals, for which Congress in recent years prevented the administration from fully or immediately releasing.
In FY 2014, for instance, Congress approved Obama’s Egypt aid request subject to certain conditions.
Release of the funds was contingent upon certification from the secretary of state that Egypt “is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States and is meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty,” according to a Congressional Research Service report that the Federation of American Scientists made available.
Secretary of State John Kerry provided the certification in April 2014, the report says.
It also notes that the Egyptian military’s “crackdown against dissent since ousting the country’s elected president, Muslim Brotherhood figure Muhammad Morsi, in July 2013, has strained relations with the Obama administration.”
That crackdown likewise “renewed U.S. public debate over the costs and benefits of maintaining strong bilateral security ties with what some describe as an increasingly undemocratic Egyptian partner.”
The U.S. between 1948 and 2014 provided nearly $75 billion in bilateral foreign to Egypt, including $1.3 billion a year in military aid since 1987.
The House Committee on Appropriations in June passed the most recent Department and State and Foreign Operations bill but continued to place conditions on economic and military aid to Egypt.
“No funds will be provided unless Egypt sustains its strategic partnership with the United States and adheres to the peace treaty with Israel.” Other conditions are included to support Egypt’s democratic transition.
USAID separately will spend up to $25 million over the next five years to assess the effectiveness of its aid portfolio in Egypt, as WND has reported.
Obama’s USAID Forward policy has led to the increasingly frequent and costly review of such foreign aid programs, as it seeks to ensure that aid programs – and the contractors hired to carry out the endeavors – follow the administration’s plans.
WND also recently uncovered the administration’s plan, for example, to spend $140 million to scrutinize and to possibly expand programs in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.