Thursday, February 28, 2013

NATO Builds Starfleet Headquarters

I've been in a grumpy, snarky mood all week - why stop now?

I always thought that San Francisco was a bad place for Starfleet Headquarters - so Brussels is not bad by comparison. Look.

NATO Headquarters Brussels.
When Anders Fogh Rasmussen drives to his office in the Schaerbeek neighborhood of Brussels in the morning, he gazes longingly at a large construction site across the street. The site, where construction cranes jut into the sky, will eventually be the home of the new, 250,000-square-meter (2.7-million-square-foot) NATO headquarters. Price tag: more than a billion euros.
In 28FEB13 Dollars - that comes to over $1.31 billion. That is a lot for an organization that really doesn't need something that big. Really. It doesn't. It should have something that is both more reasonable, to scale - and artistically ... well ... more something else than a modernist masturbatoreum found in a dusty B-roll from Tomorrowland.

Our friends over at NATOSource ask nicely;
The revelation comes as NATO is pushing to slash its costs and streamline its bureaucracy against a backdrop of savage defence cuts in practically all member states.
... I'll be a bit more blogg'y. OK serfs ... errrr ... I mean taxpayers. As European economies sag under austerity plans, the USA pretends it is Greece spending wise as it stumbles through a 4th year without a budget - the NATO militarizes are fading in to gendarmerie level of capability; here is the NATO staff's response;
Nations recognised that the current facilities were inflexible and had reached saturation point. (The current HQ was constructed on a temporary basis in 1967 and has now been in service for 41 years). Put simply, the need for a new Headquarters is overwhelming. The revision of NATO's working methods, launched under NATO +, must be underpinned by modern, flexible, user-friendly facilities which provide a pleasant and effective working environment for all staff.

The new Headquarters will be designed around staff needs. A state-of-the-art building will ensure maximum flexibility so that working space can be configured in different ways to suit individual and collective needs. New restaurant, leisure and support facilities (shops, banks) will bring working and living conditions closer together and provide staff with better overall services on site.

In consequence, nations agreed that NATO needed and deserved a new building for the new millennium to reflect its success as an organisation and its new missions and activities.
A comfortable Staff building in NATO is about as important as the Flags-to-Post outcome. Actual expenditures in to capability too by our European friends? Child please.
According to an internal breakdown by Rasmussen, the American share of the NATO budget has increased from 63 to 72 percent in the last decade, a development the Americans have long deplored.
Joseph A. Harriss over at TheAmericanSpectator isn't all that impressed either;
... the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has just begun construction of a splendiferous new $1.38 billion headquarters on a 100-acre site in Brussels. Designed by Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, renowned for luxurious commercial buildings including the tallest in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the futuristic new NATO offices will feature eight sweeping wings covering 2.7 million square feet. Glass-walled elevators overlooking cavernous atriums showering natural light. Ecologically correct grass growing on the roof. Seventeen conference rooms. A range of amenities from cafeterias, restaurants, and banks, to shopping, sport, and leisure facilities.
Today about 4,500 staff are at the Brussels headquarters. Along with thousands of others in its multifarious agencies and strategic and regional commands, they engage in a giddy flurry of activities. Many have only an imaginary relation to security. For example:

• The Academic Affairs Unit runs a fellowships program and organizes conferences, seminars, and visits for academics and think tank researchers to “project the Alliance’s point of view and strengthen information on its goals.” In other words, a glorified PR operation with academic pretensions.

• The Science for Peace and Security Committee “contributes to NATO’s mission by linking science to society,” whatever that means. Concretely, it funds grants for research on soft, fashionable subjects like civil science and environment.

• The NATO Undersea Research Center in La Spezia, Italy, has a vast program including Marine Mammal Risk Mitigation that studies the effects of sonar on marine animals, “to counter the threat from quiet submarines.”

• Then there’s the NATO Multimedia Library with its more than 18,000 books and subscriptions to 155 newspapers and magazines. And its annual Manfred W├Ârner Junior Essay competition with a $6,800 prize. And the NATO photo competition for young shutterbugs who learn that, for example, “Taking photographs of random strangers can be risky.”
To keep the snark going strong; those who have done NATO tours know that the 4th billet is the most important for the new HQ.
The facilities will comprise :
  • up-to-date conference facilities;
  • office accommodation for Delegations, Military Representations, International Staff (IS) and International Military Staff (IMS), Agencies and Partner Missions;
  • modern, up-to date communications and IT facilities.
  • a variety of support services such as: restaurants, banking, shopping, leisure and sports facilities;
Look at it closer and then think of all the metal and glass structures that has blighted the landscape since WWII. They don't age all that well, do they?  This will be different, yes? If we are spending over $1.31 billion on a building, then we plan to have it last a long time, right? Responsible with other people's money, correct?
... the requirement for an austere, sober and functional building with the need for a reasonable level of comfort and the provision of modular, flexible space, which can be systematically reconfigured and/or extended. The facilities must also guarantee value for money (a sensible level of cost over a 30 year life cycle) as well as long term soundness.
Also, putting on my red hat; give me an Airbus and three guys who want to die; unlike the Pentagon, this doesn't have a stone anywhere nor all that much concrete to get in the way. Easy target.

I know, I'm just being a cynic - but honestly; I'm not all that impressed. Mostly, it is because I prefer neo-Classical, Romanesque, and neo-Gothic architecture - with stone. But, that is just me.

Here, let these guys explain themselves.

As per the DD1390, in the 2013 DoD budget, we are spending $26.969 million, representing DoD's 60% of the USA contribution. DoS is covering the other 40%.
- 2012 it was $24.118 million.
- 2011 $31.863 million.
- 2010 $41.4 million.

That gives you a running average. Construction started in 2009, and the land came gratis from The Kingdom of Belgium.

So, there you go.  Here is a shot of the old building. Just another clapped-out modernist 1960s building ... which is what this will be in 30-years. 

One would think that a modern organization such as NATO would go for a much smoother, smaller, more nimble HQ - especially when you consider that SHAPE is just down the road in Mons ... but this is a largely European run bureaucracy - hence it must grow, and we have Starfleet Headquarters. 

Other people's money and all. Good positive things here in one way; NATO orders are simple outstanding both professionally and for the family ... so a chance to live in Europe for Americans.

Got to get you money's worth.

UPDATE: Yea ... as Pat points out in comments; perhaps not the best design. Look at the pick above ... and .... ummmmm ....


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