DEPARTMENT OF STATE
STATEMENT OF AMBASSADOR A. PETER BURLEIGH
ACTING UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS
ON THE PROPOSED BUILDING FOR THE U.S. MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
SEPTEMBER 17, 1998

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to discuss the Department of State's position on the proposed new building for the United States Mission to the United Nations.

The Department is actively committed to the efforts of the United Nations to grapple with the complex international concerns inherent in the post Cold War era. The USUN Mission is a vital and visible part of this effort. The Mission Building -- built on land which was a gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. -- constitutes the platform for United States activities, and is located in a prime location, at 799 United Nations Plaza in New York City, right across from the United Nations Building.

The existing USUN Mission Building was constructed on a 1/3 acre site in 1959. The present structure limits the net occupiable floor space. Its 39-year-old mechanical and electrical systems are in need of replacement to avoid potentially hazardous conditions. The age, cost to maintain and repair these systems, and lack of energy efficiency would necessitate costly replacement of the equipment in a building that no longer serves the U.S. Government needs.

In an effort to determine the best solution to this problem, the General Services Administration studied the building and our program needs. They determined that the building was in a sufficient state of disrepair that could hinder our ability to protect our people and the vital mission they perform. There was no acceptable means of renovating the structure, or adding on to it that would meet our current and future requirements.

In June 1997, GSA proposed that the existing building be demolished, and a new building be constructed on the same site, with the USUN staff relocated to nearby temporary leased space. The new building will maximize use of the site to provide additional space, while improving the net to gross occupiable square footage by 29 percent. The new USUN-Mission building will provide increased space (an anticipated yield of 107,000 occupiable square feet compared to the existing 46,000) that will give us desperately needed staff offices and special purpose and support space for meetings, conferences, the UN General Assembly and other diplomatic functions. It will enhance the physical security of the building and provide essential protection to the information we manage. I cannot overemphasize the importance of protecting information which is integral to the diplomatic negotiations process.

Due to the lack of space in the existing building, much of the special purpose space has been converted to of floe use, resulting in staff being displaced for meetings, events and for use by visiting dignitaries. In addition to meeting the USUN Mission needs, the proposed building would allow us to provide consolidated of floe space for staff of the United States Information Agency and the Department's Office of Foreign Missions, currently housed in separate leased buildings. The resulting rent savings will offset some of the increased annual charges for the new building.

As stewards of this asset, GSA recommended the demolition of the existing building and construction of a new, larger building. Our desire to remain at this site is a sign of the U.S. commitment to the United Nations and a valuable symbol of our leadership in that organization. The Department approved of GSA's proposal and seeks your support and funding of this essential project. GSA stands ready to proceed with the A&E design of the new building in FY99. We are exploring options to lease temporary space for the USUN Mission in mid-1999, with planned occupancy in January 2000. If all funding is provided and the schedules are not changed, we would take occupancy of the new USUN Mission Building in late 2003 or early 2004.

We are aware of the financial constraints in this budget environment and we continually strive to be good stewards of public funds. We believe this is the appropriate time to undertake this project and request your support of the GSA budget of approximately $55 million. The Department of State will have additional costs for this project, related to construction security, above standard construction, telecommunications, and other associated modifications. Funding for these items will be requested through our normal appropriations process.

Let me close by stressing that, with the end of the Cold War, U.S. multi-lateral diplomacy has become more critical and demanding than ever before as we strive to ensure global peace. A state-of-the-art facility that provides enhanced security and telecommunications technology as well as additional space to accomplish our mission, is key to continued U.S. leadership in the United Nations in the new millenium.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this project with you and would be pleased to respond to any questions that you or members of the committee may have.