Just over a week after sequestration took effect, the State Department allotted more than $700,000 for gardening at a U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Brussels, Belgium.
On March 11, State awarded a contract to provide gardening services at an “official residence” of the U.S. Mission in Belgium.
A State Department spokesperson confirmed to CNSNews.com that the contract is for Truman Hall, a historic property that serves at the residence of the Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The current U.S. ambassador to NATO is Ivo H. Daalder, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in May 2009.
The total award comes to $704,198.30, including $134,744 for the base year and four one-year option periods thereafter.
A State Department spokesperson said that Truman Hall regularly hosts visitors from the 28 NATO nations and other Alliance partner countries around the world and is a valuable platform for America’s diplomacy.
The award provides for grass cutting, edging, trimming, weeding, and other gardening and landscaping services. It will also mandate the planting of 960 violas, tulips, and begonias.
Truman Hall, named after former President Harry S. Truman, was built in 1963 by Architect B.A. Jacquemotte and Landscape Architect René Pechère. The 28-acre property consists of several gardens, meadows and a lawn pavilion.
The award came just 10 days after automatic across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester, took effect on March 1. Prior to the cuts taking effect, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the sequester could “seriously impair our ability to execute our vital missions of national security, diplomacy and development.”
In a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) on Feb. 11, Kerry said sequestration means $2.6 billion less in fiscal year 2013 for State Department programs.
"These cuts would severely impair our efforts to enhance the security of U.S. government facilities overseas and ensure the safety of the thousands of U.S. diplomats serving the American people abroad," he said.
In addition to Truman Hall, the State Department is currently soliciting gardening services for U.S. Embassies in Jakarta, Indonesia; Santiago, Chile; Maseru, Lesotho; and Bangkok, Thailand.
The solicitation for the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta places a maximum amount of $500,000.
A State Department spokesperson said the award for Truman Hall was made at the lowest price technically acceptable, at a total cost of $704,198.30. The contract was awarded to Iris Greencare, a landscaping company based in Brussels.