Obama administration officials defended the innovative design of a $1 billion U.S. Embassy being built in London, saying it meets high security standards in a time of evolving terrorist threats against Americans abroad. Republican lawmakers at a hearing sharply criticized the State Department officials for certifying the building’s design and said construction began before blast testing was completed. Gregory Starr, assistant secretary for diplomatic security, countered, saying the design of the building — a steel-framed cube surrounded by a glass curtain wall — was endorsed by the architect, top blast construction experts and others in November and December 2013. Lydia Muniz, director of the bureau of overseas building operations at State, said the U.S. sold other properties in London to finance the entire cost of the new embassy. Upgrading the existing embassy would have cost $550 million and still would not be as secure as the new embassy, she said. Muniz said the embassy was on budget and will be completed on schedule by the end of next year.
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