Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations: Who Is Adam Namm

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

On May 1, 2009, Adam E. Namm took over as acting director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), a State Department agency responsible for the buildings that house America’s overseas embassies, consulates and missions, including more than 3,500 owned buildings around the globe. Although the agency made its early reputation during the 1950s as a leader in aesthetic architectural design, building safety has since become its primary mission. Since the 1998 bombings of American embassies in east Africa, the federal government has conducted the largest construction effort in US diplomatic history to upgrade diplomatic posts and secure them against terrorist attacks. Problems have arisen, however, in the course of several high-profile embassy projects, including the sprawling new complex in Baghdad, Iraq. Namm has his work cut out for him, as all that construction is now yielding higher building maintenance costs. In fact, OBO is requesting a tenfold increase in its annual building maintenance budget, from $150 million to $1.5 billion, although Namm admits the agency is unlikely to get entire amount. 

Born circa 1963, Namm graduated in 1981from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he manifested an early interest in building safety, writing a spirited letter to the school newspaper in support of late night dorm fire drills. Namm went to earn an A.B. in International Relations from Brown University and an M.S. in National Security Strategy in 2004 from the National War College, where he wrote a paper analyzing the Spanish Civil War in light of the works of the military theorists Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu.  He speaks Spanish and French.
Namm began his career at the State Department in 1987. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Namm has served in administrative positions both overseas and stateside. His overseas postings include stints as Management Counselor in Islamabad, Pakistan; Human Resources Officer in Bogota, Colombia; General Services Officer in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Consular Officer in Bogota and Santo Domingo.  His domestic assignments have included Executive Assistant in the Bureau of Administration, Director of the Office of Allowances, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management, Desk Officer and Post Management Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Area Management Officer in OBO. 
A longtime resident of Arlington, Virginia, in 2006 Namm allowed his name to be used in a New York Times story on rodent extermination; the story detailed Namm’s run-ins with rats, which had pushed up a floorboard in his home and thoroughly frightened a pet hamster. 
- Matt Bewig
State to Raise Budget for Embassy Upkeep (by Tim Kauffman, Federal Times)
Squeamishly Waging the Rodent War (by Alina Tugend, New York Times)


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