The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, charged with establishing a memorial in Washington to the 34th president, is out with its budget for 2014 – and lawmakers aren't pleased.
Congress has already appropriated more than $62 million to the commission, which since 1999 has chosen a site and design for a tribute to Ike, but has failed to begin constructing a memorial. And now the commission wants another $51 million, which it says will go toward salaries, expenses and construction. The construction is speculative, as the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, which has review over all construction within Washington, D.C., says it is still waiting for answers from memorial designer Frank Gehry on what important aspects of the memorial would look like.
In a strongly-worded letter sent Thursday to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, and shared with Whispers, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wa., both on the House Committee on National Resources, note that the Eisenhower family is concerned about the memorial's design and cost, and say "significant questions remain about how the commission has been operating and spending [its] funds."
Among those questions: why the commission needs $2 million in operational expenses next year for only nine full-time employees; why it spent $220,000 in travel and conferences from 2009-2012 and needs $97,000 for similar activities next year; why it spent $1 million on electronic materials about the memorial and will be spending $1.4 million more; and how much it paid to Gehry and his firm.
Letters about the ballooning costs were also sent to the General Service Administration and Parks Service.
"They haven't sufficiently answered our questions and we are wanting to get to the bottom of the funding issues," says Melissa D. Subbotin, a spokeswoman for Bishop, who chaired a March congressional hearing on the memorial that was critical of the commission. "They didn't provide enough information in their testimony and considering how much money is at stake, we want answers."
The commission did not immediately respond to request for comment on the costs from Whispers.