United States General Accounting Office Fact Sheet for the Chairman, GAO Subcommittee on International Operations, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives March 1990 INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING Construction of U.S. Radio Relay Station in Israel . .... : .“.’ a- .s. ., :’ ., i. GAO/NSIAD90-l23FS - ,_. +.,)..,.’ : .: ‘., ; ..‘._ _ .. , ..$, .. ; *..-: ‘. *. _, GAO United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 National Security and International Affairs Division March 14.1990 The Honorable Mervyn M. Dymally Chairman, Subcommittee on International Operations, Committee on Foreign Affairs 1Iouse of Representat ivtbs Dear Mr. Chairman: On November 2, 1989, you asked us to obtain certain information regarding the 175%radio relay station project in Israel funded by the Board for International Broadcasting (BIB). Specifically, you asked us to ( 1) compare the cost of the project, as currently envisioned, with the rest of other alternatives that had been considered and (2) determine the reasons for selecting 1~11as the lead agency to manage the project. In 1987, the [Jnited States and Israel signed an agreement to allow the construction of a short-wave radio relay station in Israel. The station will be for the joint use of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a grantee of FAIR,and the ITS. Information Agency’s Voice of America (WA). The new station will cnhancc, Radio Liberty’s shortwave broadcasts into Soviet Central Asia and \‘0.4’s broadcasts to Eastern Europe, North and East Africa, and Southwest Asia. HIISwas designated the lead agency to oversee the design and construction of the pro,jcct. According to HIII and vo;\ officials, in the late 1970s and early 1980s sev- Results in Brief eral Middle East, rount rics were contacted to determine their receptivity to hosting a radio rcllay facilit,y. Only Israel responded positively to the 1J.S. request. These offil*ials told us that, cost, alternatives were not a major consideration m selrcting the current site in Israel. They indicated that technical requirernt~nts were the primary consideration in choosing the Israeli site. In addit ion, we were told that cost was not a major con- sideration in assigning t hr lead agency responsibility to IUH. Appendix I provides additional details regarding the cost of the project versus alter- natives and cost considt*rations in designating 151~as the lead agency for the prqject. To obtain information on I he process leading to the construction of the Scope and radio relay station in Israel we interviewed key HIH and VOA officials and Methodology reviewed pertinent rlwrmwnts. We did not verify the accuracy of the Page I GAO/NSIAD90-123FS International Broadcasting in Israel Page 3 GAO/NSIAIMO-123FS International Broadcasting in Israel ~~_~ Appendix I RIB/USIA Radio Relay Facility in Israel The Chairman asked us to compare the cost of the project, as currently First Committee envisioned, with the cost of other alternatives that had been considered. Concern - Alternatives According to IUII and vo.\ officials, there were no akcrnatives to estab- lishing a relay station site in Israel. Other countries in the Middle East Considered were not rcccptivf to hosting a ITS. installation. Since the late 1970s. ISII~had been looking for a site in the Middle East to build a shortwave radio relay site for IGTXU. to improve its ability to broadcast to the Central Asian and Kazakhstan region of the Soviet IJnion. Working through the Department of State, HIH made several inquiries in the Middk Nast but was unsucctlssful in gaining permission to build a relay site In 1982, the National Security Council (NW) reviewed the 17,s. interna- tional broadcasting system and set priorities for the future program- ming of both RFE:f<I.and LYM. In the fall of 1982, the Reagan administration and t ht\ Congress agreed that VOA needed a large-scale modernization. As a p>lI’t of this mandate, VOA assessed its needs and concluded that it also ncc>d(,d a Middle Eastern site to meet hx’s requirc- ments for the CCYltl’ill Asian area. Hecause of the diff’ic~rllr Its in locating sites for ITS. radio relay facilities, the Reagan administration decided in 1983 that it was both politically and t,echnically feasibk to develop a ,joint site to meet the needs of RFE~ RI. and vo;\. According to HIS and VOAofficials, establishing a joint relay st.ation rather than hrlilding sc,parate facilities would reduce the overall cost to the 1J.S. go\~c~rnrnrn~. This would also set a precedent for future cooperation betwrtbtl I(II~ and I ~sI,+in sharing radio relay facilities. HII%and ~0.4 again rnad(\ inquiries through the State Department to all t,he countries in the Middlt~ l&t that were considered friendly and had pos- sible sites. Before Dc~c~cmbor1984, the ITnitcad States was unable to nego- tiate any agreements to establish a site. However, in December 1984. President Reagan sent a personal let.tcr to the Israeli Prime Minister requesting that Isrxll reconsider its initial opposition to a site. In Febru- ary 1985, the Israeli government gave its approval, and negotiations fol t,he site concluded in a[~ agreement signed in .Junc 1987. According to IIIH and L(I)\ officials, cost considerations were not a major element in the initial phasr of seeking a relay station site in the Middle East. The primary consideration was finding a site suitable to meet tech- nical needs. Once the Israeli government agreed to allow a relay station Page 5 GAO/NSlAD90-123FS Intrmational Broadcasting in Israel Appendix 1 BIB/USIA Radio Relay Facility in Israrl As a small oversight agency, 131~does not have the staff to administer the Israeli project directly. Therefore, RIB worked with IIFE/RL and USIA to establish the International Broadcast System, Inc., a nonprofit corpo- ration, to manage the project under BIB’S direction. The International Broadcast System has a staff authorization of 22 people, including sev- eral from EWE/RI,. According to RIB officials, International Broadcast Sys- tem, Inc., will cease operation when the station is completed in 1993. Page 7 GAO/NSlAlb90-123FS International Broadcasting in Israel Appendix I BIB/USIA Radio Relay Facility in Israel to be built in Israel, eight locations in Israel were considered for the sta- tion. According to BIB and VOA officials, the total project cost was not arrived at until the actual site was selected because of unknown vari- ables, such as lease of the land, site preparation, power suppiy, and security requirements. When the agreement with Israel was signed in June 1987 and specific plans were developed, the cost was placed at $310 million. The cost was later reduced to $290 million based on a decision to reduce the number of antennas. This decision was made primarily because of the cessation of jamming by the Soviet Union. BIB has stated that if jamming were resumed, it would seek the necessary funds to add the antennas that were cut. The $290 million cost estimate for the station includes $274 million for planning, designing, and constructing the relay station and $16 million for the government of Israel. In exchange for the $16 million payment, the government of Israel, for the duration of the agreement, will pay all land-lease costs associated with the site; payments to the communities in the site region; land-use charges; municipal and regional taxes, exclusive of fees for services actually provided; and security costs, exclusive of on-site security during the design and construction phase of the project. The Chairman asked us to look at the reasons for selecting to oversee Second Committee the project versus WA. RIB Concern - Choice of Lead Agency BIH was designated the lead agency after consultation with the appropri- ate congressional authorization and appropriation committees, the Office of Management and Budget, and NSC.The arrangement was for- malized on December 1, 1987, with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the HIH and IJSIA. According to RIB and v‘o~ officials, BIB was designated the lead agency because (1) IJSIA was facing budget constraints at the time and felt that to take on another large project would cause other IJSIA programs to be cut, (2) VOA was involved in an $800 million modernization of its world- wide transmission facilities and felt that it could not staff another major project, and (3) RFF:/IU. would be the major user of the station. Cost was not a major consideration in assigning lead agency responsibil- ity to BIB. According to BIB and VOA officials, the cost of the project would be the same regardless of whether BIB or VOA managed it. Page 6 GAO/NSL4B9O-lZ3FS International Broadcasting in Israel Appendix I BIB/USIA Radio Relay Facility in Israel Negotiations betwctcn the governments of the United States and Israel to establish a U.S. shortwave radio relay station in Israel began in March 1985. Engineering studies by the Board for International Broadcasting ( I(IH) and the Voice, of America (WA) had shown that a new relay station located in the Middle East would deliver a reliable signal into the IJSSK’s Central Asian republics. Eastern Europe, the sub-Sahara region, and Southwest Asia. Negotiations were concluded in the spring of 1987, and an agreement was signed on .June 18. 1987, providing for joint use of the station by IUI~‘Sgrantee Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFWI,) and the I-.S. information Agency’S (rlsliz) VOA. The terms of the agrc,emrnt call for the facility to bc designed by a ITS. or Israeli company and built by an Israeli contractor using 17% mamlfdctured transmitters and antennas. The agreement runs for 25 years from the dat c of the first operational broadcast and is renewable by mutual consent. (‘onstruction of the station is scheduled for comple- tion in 1993. As of February 1990. the technical design of the relay station had been completed. The ac,tual construction awaits the approval of the Environ- mental Impact Stat(lment and National Outline Scheme by t,he Israeli government and t hc awarding of four major contracts. The contracts are for site preparation and a water system, a super high voltage substation, a facilities and scc.urit y system. and the broadcast system. The new radio relay st,ation will be located on a 2,XOacre desert site in the Arava Valley. approximately 20 miles south of the Dead Sea. The station will have sizt t’cn X)0-ki1owat.t high-powered, shortwave broad- cast transmitters ( 10 for HI%and 6 for YOA) and 37 curtain antenna arrays (15 for HIH and 22 for YOA). The station will enhance broadcasts of IZFI$~~, and ~‘0.4to ICastc,rn Europe and the Soviet. IJnion and of WA to Central Asia, Central and East, Africa, and Southern Asia. The station will also require administ rativc and maintenance facilities, satellite ground stations, and a power substation and distribution system. In December 1987. tiIf( was designated as the lead agency responsible for all design, construc?ion, funding, and personnel activities, as defined by the Memorandum of i\grc,ement between IWA and HIH. Page 4 GAO/NSIAD-SO-123FS International Broadcasting in Israel IF238637 information provided by these officials. We discussed the information contained in this fact sheet with responsible BIB and VOA officials and incorporated their views where appropriate. As agreed with your staff, we are separately addressing your request regarding the need for the relay station, given the recent developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. IJnless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this fact sheet until 5 days from its issue date. At that time, we will send copies of the report to interested parties and make copies available to others upon request. This fact sheet was prepared under the direction of Joseph E. Kelley, Director, Security and International Relations Issues, who may be reached on 2754128 if you or your staff have further questions. Other staff who made major contributions to this report were Jess T. Ford, Assistant Director, and Paul G. Atkins, Evaluator-in-Charge. Sincerely yours, Neal P. Curtin Director, Planning and Reporting Page 2 GAO/NSIAD90423FS International Broadcasting in Israel
International Broadcasting: Construction of U.S. Radio Relay Station in Israel
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-14.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)