The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

State Dept Defends Its $5 Million Order for Hand-Crafted Glassware

Congress is asking the State Department for specifics about a recent $5 million contract for handcrafted glasses for use in embassies around the world, The Cable has learned. The order, which came on the eve of last week’s government shutdown, is a potential five-year contract for 20 different styles of custom handcrafted stem and barware ...

568007_screen_shot_2013-10-07_at_7.43.36_pm2.png
568007_screen_shot_2013-10-07_at_7.43.36_pm2.png

Congress is asking the State Department for specifics about a recent $5 million contract for handcrafted glasses for use in embassies around the world, The Cable has learned.

The order, which came on the eve of last week's government shutdown, is a potential five-year contract for 20 different styles of custom handcrafted stem and barware from the Vermont-based glassblowing company Simon Pearce. The specifics of the congressional inquiry are unclear, but one Hill aide who contacted The Cable was less than enthused. "Seems like a poor use of funds given the current budget environment," he said. 

A State Department official, speaking on background, said the order was not unusual. "It's probably not a surprise to you or anyone else that the State Department and our embassies have nice dinnerware," the official said. "It would probably be expected for anyone representing the U.S. government abroad."

Congress is asking the State Department for specifics about a recent $5 million contract for handcrafted glasses for use in embassies around the world, The Cable has learned.

The order, which came on the eve of last week’s government shutdown, is a potential five-year contract for 20 different styles of custom handcrafted stem and barware from the Vermont-based glassblowing company Simon Pearce. The specifics of the congressional inquiry are unclear, but one Hill aide who contacted The Cable was less than enthused. "Seems like a poor use of funds given the current budget environment," he said. 

A State Department official, speaking on background, said the order was not unusual. "It’s probably not a surprise to you or anyone else that the State Department and our embassies have nice dinnerware," the official said. "It would probably be expected for anyone representing the U.S. government abroad."

The official also said the timing, just before the government shutdown, was not atypical. "It’s not unusual for lots of contracts to be awarded by the end of the fiscal year," the source said.

According to New Hampshire’s Valley News newspaper, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies, was "instrumental in helping Simon Pearce get the contract." Leahy specifically wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry in support of Simon Pearce, according to a Leahy press release.

"It is wonderful to have such an exquisite example of Vermont craftsmanship on display and in use in our embassies around the world," Leahy said. "Marcelle and I have visited many of those embassies, and knowing that Simon Pearce’s products will be there is something that all Vermonters should be proud of."

For government agencies, the end of the fiscal year is typically marked by an uptick in contracts as they face the reality of spending leftover budgeted funds or giving the money back. It’s not clear what $5 million in stems and barware gets you, but we’re sure they’ll find their place in the almost 300 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world.

Tag: War

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.