July 25, 2014
The House Natural Resources Committee’s Majority oversight staff released a report
today entitled “A Five-Star Folly: An Investigation into the Cost Increases, Construction Delays, and Design Problems That Have Been a Disservice to the Effort to Memorialize Dwight D. Eisenhower.” The current proposal for the Memorial, created by Frank Gehry’s architecture firm, has faced intense scrutiny from the Eisenhower family and the public for both a poor and flawed design, rising design costs, and difficult to predict durability and maintenance costs. To date, more than $16.4 million has been spent on the memorial design, and another $13.3 million on design contract management and administrative support, yet no design has been approved or memorial built.
Because of chronic mismanagement, cost overruns, and the continued need for a memorial befitting the honor and contribution of President Eisenhower , today Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop introduced H.R. 5203, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission Reform Act. This legislation will provide an opportunity for a new perspective by creating a new commission to complete a monument fitting to honor the accomplishments and legacy of President Eisenhower.
“President Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the greatest leaders in our nation’s history. His legacy must be memorialized in a way that appropriately pays tribute to the many contributions he made as a general and as President,” said Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop. “The goal of this report and legislation is to address and subsequently move past the controversies and mismanagement that continue to plague the project. In light of the information found in the oversight report, it is very clear that we must move forward with new, and more appropriate ideas, as well as better management of the resources dedicated to the success of this project.”
“President Eisenhower is worthy of a memorial in Washington, DC honoring his accomplishments and legacy -- and he certainly deserves better than the current memorial morass,” said Chairman Doc Hastings. “The House Natural Resource Committee’s oversight investigation and report has documented how the stubborn mismanagement displayed in the creation of an Eisenhower Memorial by bureaucratic staff and the Commission over the past fifteen years has produced very little but a track record of wasting millions of taxpayer dollars and a deeply flawed design that’s failed to meet even the basic requirements for the memorial which are based on criteria that was clearly laid out as early as 2006. A change needs to be made so that an appropriately designed memorial to Dwight Eisenhower can move forward promptly without further waste and distractions. It’s time to restore a devotion to a proper Eisenhower Memorial rather than an obstinate pursuit of the Gehry design in spite of mounting costs and criticism.”
The report, issued by the Committee’s Majority staff’s Office of Oversight and Investigation, found:
- The report, issued by the Committee’s Majority staff’s Office of Oversight and Investigation, found:
- The design continues to fall short of the required design principles that were established in 2006 and the requirements of the Commemorative Works Act. Given these ongoing shortcomings, the design has not yet received the approvals necessary to begin construction.
- Approximately $41 million has been spent or obligated so far, including more than $16.4 million for the designer and more than $13.3 million to the multiple parties responsible for managing the design process and providing administrative support.
- Almost every contract the Commission has entered into for work on the Memorial has been modified multiple times to reflect millions of dollars in additional costs. The Commission also awarded several contracts for support services through sole source selection with no open competition.
- In 2011 the Commission authorized the design team to prepare construction documents. According to the Commission’s most recent budget request, those documents are now 95 percent complete for a design that had not been – and is still not – approved.
- The Commission’s current fundraising firm was expected to raise as much as $35 million in private funding, even though the Commission’s prior consultant said that goal was not feasible. To date, the Commission has received less than $500,000 in gifts and donations but has paid more than $1.4 million to these fundraising companies.
- The proposed use of metal tapestries and electronic components has made it difficult to predict the future costs to maintain and operate the Memorial.
Background on Eisenhower Memorial:
In 1999, Congress established the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial and tasked it with “consider[ing] and formulat[ing] plans for such a permanent memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, including its nature, design, construction, and location.”
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission is composed of 12 commissioners – four citizens appointed by the President, four members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House, and four Senators appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. The day-to-day operations of the Memorial Commission are overseen by a nine-person executive staff and assisted by several contractors. Assistance is also provided by the General Services Administration, as well as a construction management firm.
Since 1999, Congress has appropriated about $65 million to the Memorial Commission to pay for its operational expenses, the selection of a designer, and the development of a design. A four-acre site at the intersection of Maryland and Independence avenues, south of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, was selected in 2006 as the location of the planned Eisenhower Memorial.
The Commission selected famed architect Frank Gehry in 2009 to design the Memorial. Gehry’s design features several statues in the center of the site, surrounded on three sides by metal tapestries suspended from 80-foot tall columns. Questions have been raised about the durability of the metal tapestries as well as their aesthetics compared to the surrounding buildings and other memorials along the National Mall.
As recently as spring 2014, the National Capital Planning Commission rejected Gehry’s proposed design because the necessary durability and protection of the historic viewshed along Maryland Avenue, among other features, had not been adequately demonstrated.
Background on Committee’s Investigation:
The Committee has been conducting oversight of the Memorial Commission’s activities and the design of the Memorial since the 112th Congress. On March 20, 2012, an oversight hearing was held to hear concerns about the design selection process and durability of the design, including opposition from the Eisenhower family.
In the 113th Congress, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation heard testimony from members of the Eisenhower family, the Memorial Commission, and the public concerning H.R. 1126 (“Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act”) and the status of the project itself.
Given concerns raised at these hearings, document request letters were sent by Full Committee Chairman Doc Hastings and Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop on May 15, 2013 to the Memorial Commission, the GSA, and the National Park Service, requesting details about the Commission’s activities, travel, fundraising, and expenses; copies of contracts and invoices with the designer and other contractors; information about the design process and overall project management; and the analysis of what it will cost to operate the Memorial.