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February 9, 2016

Mexico Embassy Compound’s Swelling $764 Million Price Tag Worries House Panel

Riot Police officers stand guard outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City during a 2013 protest. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Riot Police officers stand guard outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City during a 2013 protest. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

A new U.S. Embassy compound in Mexico City is getting pricey, a House panel notes with some dismay — up 38 percent to $763.5 million over the initial estimates just two years ago — and is insisting on additional congressional oversight of embassy land purchases and construction contracts as a result.

“Cost increases of this magnitude, as well as reports of other new embassy project cost escalations, are of great concern to the Committee,” the House Appropriations Committee’s draft report on the fiscal 2015 State and foreign aid spending bill notes. The panel released the report Monday in advance of a planned vote Tuesday on the bill.

For new construction projects, then, the committee is expanding existing oversight provisions to “require that all notifications for the purchase of land and for the award of construction contracts be subject to the regular notification procedures of, and prior approval by, the Committees on Appropriations.”

Besides imposing new reporting and approval requirements on embassy construction overall, the panel had some specific instructions for the embassy compound in Mexico.

“Additionally, the Committee directs the Department of State to carefully review the design and cost of the Mexico City new embassy compound and to provide updated design plans and options for reducing the cost of the facility to the Committees on Appropriations prior to the obligation of additional funds for this project from funds made available in this Act or prior Acts,” the report states.

The embassy project has run into trouble on a number of fronts, among them security in a country where drug cartels are a threat to U.S. personnel.

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