Doing Business with the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations
- By Guy Timberlake
- Mar 20, 2007
In August 1998, terrorist attacks on the embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania killed 224 people including 43 State Department employees.
The deaths sparked a renewed commitment to creating safe and secure
facilities across the globe for State Department employees and
overseas-based employees of other agencies. This meant a
significant change in embassy site selection and facility security
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles E. Williams was appointed in 2001
as the first director and chief operating officer of the Bureau of
Overseas Building Operations. His challenge was to transform the
way embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions were built and
"Since this initiative began, we have completed 42
complexes and moved more than 15,000 of our people to safer and
more secure facilities," Williams said. "Although it
has not been a cakewalk, we understand that the diplomatic
platforms we construct play a critical role in Secretary
Rice's focus on transformational diplomacy."
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations directs the worldwide
overseas buildings program for the State Department and other
government agencies working abroad. In concert with other State
Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, the
bureau sets priorities for the design, construction, acquisition,
maintenance, use and sale of real properties and the use of sales
Hometown: Sawyerville, Ala.
Alma mater: Tuskegee Institute
Career: 28 years in the Army Corps of Engineers; retired in
1989. He became president and CEO of the New York City School
Construction Authority and COO of the Toll Road Investors
On the job since: March 2001 (appointed by Colin
Director's mission: Responsible for managing the
day-to-day activities of construction management, real estate,
operations and maintenance, design and engineering, planning and
programming, and budget management of more than 17,000 facilities
around the world.
Accomplishments to date:
- Build a new culture for the OBO workforce.
- Decrease the time needed to construct embassy compounds while
increasing safety and functionality.
- Streamline and simplify requirements-based documentation and
- Leverage public-private partnerships to increase access to
industry knowledge. "Without good industry partnership, it
would be substantially more difficult for OBO to achieve its
mission," Williams said.
Led efforts that include the
introduction of a business case requirement as part of the
decision-making process. OBO also created an industry advisory
panel, published the first Long-Range Overseas Buildings Plan and
put in place "lean management" processes throughout the organization.
During the time I spent with General Williams and members of his
staff, I had the opportunity to see and discuss the commitment they
have to providing safer, more secure and functional facilities. As
a former military leader, Williams speaks of and has implemented
practices of accountability which includes the industry advisory
panel and extensive industry outreach activities.
Typical drivers in his organization are based on reducing costs
and increasing productivity. These factors also apply to supporting
the diplomatic mission of the agency. The 1998 embassy bombings and
resultant deaths are constant reminders of the importance of their
mission and have created a personal motivation for Williams and his
Points of discussion between the bureau and the industry
advisory panel include building information modeling, improving the
procurement process and crafting design and construction best
In addition to quarterly meetings of the industry advisory
panel, bureau officials and staff will participate in discussion
panels and one-on-one meetings with industry at multiple events
this year. These activities will help with the exchange of
information between industry and the agency.
"We want to leverage the brainpower of industry for the
benefit of all stakeholders of OBO's programs," added
- Management integrated system (BMIS) implementation
- Full implementation of "lean" management
- O&M Repositioning to a signature program
- Federal real property initiative (PMA)
- New construction commissioning process
- New construction accreditation process
- Vacancy management
- Continuous industry outreach
- Baghdad and Beijing projects
- Human resources management improvement and center of excellence
- Project start-up procedures
- Lessons learned innovation task force
- Bringing all buildings into compliance with the Americans with
Budget for embassy security, construction and
FY 2007 $1.5 billion
FY 2006 $1.49 billion (actual)
FY 2005 $2.1 billion (actual)
Small Business point of contact: Louis Pruitt, Overseas Building Operations representative (703)
2006 Small Business Contracting goals
Small business goals: Hit 44.3 percent or $154.8 million.
Goal was 40 percent.
Small, disadvantaged business goals: Hit 4.4 percent or
$50.3 million. Goal was 14 percent.
8(a) goals: Hit 11.8 percent or $41.3 million. Goal was 7
Woman-owned goals: Hit 9.6 percent or $33.4 million. Goal
was 5 percent.
HUBZone goals: Hit 7.4 percent or $25.7 million. Goal was
Service-disabled, veteran-owned goals: Hit 13 percent of
$45.4 million. Goal was 3 percent.
Most Used NAICS Code (FY 2006)
236220 ? Commercial and Institutional Building Construction
561612 ? Security Guards and Patrol Services
541614 ? Process, Physical Distribution, and Logistics
541330 ? Engineering Services
541310 ? Architectural Services
541519 ? Other Computer Related Services
561210 ? Facilities Support Services
561990 ? All Other Support Services
722310 ? Food Service Contractors
334290 ? Other Communications Equipment Manufacturing
721110 ? Hotels (Except Casino Hotels) and Motels
928120 ? International Affairs
561110 ? Office Administrative Services
238190 ? Other Foundation, Structure, and Building Exterior
423430 ? Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and
Software Merchant Wholesalers
337214 ? Office Furniture (Except Wood) Manufacturing
441110 ? New Car Dealers
541512 ? Computer Systems Design Services
423810 ? Construction and Mining (Except Oil Well) Machinery
And Equipment Merchant Wholesalers
524114 ? Direct Health and Medical Insurance Carriers
541930 ? Translation and Interpretation Services
443120 ? Computer and Software Stores
561621 ? Security Systems Services (Except Locksmiths)
332994 ? Small Arms Manufacturing
561720 ? Janitorial Services
Guy Timberlake is CEO and chief visionary officer of the
American Small Business Coalition, a membership organization
committed to providing technical and advisory support and high
quality business networking opportunities to companies doing
business with federal agencies and federal prime contractors.
Government agencies can leverage the resources of ASBC for outreach
opportunities and market research assistance by creating a free
user profile on the Web at http://www.theasbc.org.