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Panel Blasts Ike Memorial Cost, Snafus

Thursday, August 28, 2014

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After lavishing $41 million over a period longer than World War II, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission has nothing to show, and much to answer for, its congressional overseers say.

The details and scope of the memorial's many problems consume 58 pages, but the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources makes its point in the title of its new oversight report: 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 findings include allegations that the commission has:

Eisenhower Memorial EisenhowerMemorial
Eisenhower Memorial Commission

The four-acre site would be framed by three stainless-steel tapestries featuring scenery from Kansas. The tapestries would be supported by a colonnade of limestone-clad columns 80 feet tall.

  • Paid more than $1.4 million to fundraising companies that have raised less than $500,000 toward a $35 million goal;
  • Awarded several contracts to sole source vendors without an open competition; and
  • Modified "almost every contract" multiple times, to the tune of "millions of dollars in additional costs."

'Repeated Failure'

Although not officially adopted by the committee, the staff report is a detailed indictment of the time and resources expended on the 15-year-old memorial project: from its "unprecedented" design selection process, to its "repeated failure to satisfy all legal requirements," to its "unanticipated costs and delays due to conversial elements of the selected design."

The report raises "significant questions that undermine the viability" of the controversial Frank Gehry design to memorialize the nation's 34th President and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II.

The report is the latest chorus of criticism about the project's design and progress. Other critics include:

The 12-member Memorial Commission was established in 1999 and did not select a site until 2005. It selected the Gehry design in 2008 after a competition. Gehry, now 85, says he had not designed a memorial before.

Honoring Ike

Critics are not challenging the merits of the project—just its execution.

IkeMemorial
Eisenhower Memorial Commission

Critics, including the Eisenhower family, call the design too elaborate and expensive, with unknown maintenance costs. The design also violates guidelines laid down years before it was submitted for approval.

"Everyone, critics and advocates alike, want a memorial, a monument, that truly honors President Eisenhower and helps future generations of Americans undersand and appreciate his role in American history," U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) told an oversight hearing on the project in 2012.

That's about all critics and advocates agree on, however. The design, critics say, is too elaborate, too expensive, and too vulnerable to the elements. And the process has been unaccountable and out of control.

The four-acre site off the National Mall would be framed by three stainless-steel tapestries featuring scenery from Kansas. The tapestries would be supported by a colonnade of limestone-clad columns 80 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter.

The memorial’s core would feature limestone bas-relief blocks, free-standing bronze sculpture, quotations that honor Eisenhower, and a 2,400-square-foot visitor center.

$100M, 6 Years

The committee report notes that the Memorial Commission originally projected a total six-year timeline and a $100 million budget for the completed memorial.

To date, Congress has appropriated $65.4 million for the project. Not only has construction not begun, but Congress revoked the commission's construction authority in 2013. The commission has not met since June 2013 and does not plan to meet until next month.

Daniel Fiel Frank Gehry
Eisenhower Memorial Commission (left); Creative Commons (right)

The commission has paid more than $11 million toward a $19 million contract with architect Frank Gehry (right) and $1.7 million to its own Executive Architect, Daniel Fiel (left).

Also last year, Bishop and six co-sponsors introduced an unsuccessful bill, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act, that would have limited terms on the commission and prohibited the use of federal funds for the project.

$19M Gehry Contract

The new report says that an accounting of the memorial costs is still incomplete, but it does note:

  • $11 million paid and $3.3 million in pending payments to Gehry and his firm for a design that does not meet legal requirements and design principles outlined in 2006. Including unexercised options, the Gehry contract totals $19 million;
  • Payments of more than $7.2 million to Gilbane Building Company, to manage construction and design;
  • Payments of almost $1.7 million to Executive Architect Daniel Feil for design management;
  • Millions of dollars spent to support the commission's politically connected nine-member staff and offices;
  • A jury evaluation that deemed the design entries "mediocre" and recommended an additional round of submissions—a recommendation the commission ignored; and
  • A design selection process that "substantially deviated from the standard Design Excellence Program" and was "weighted" to favor a well-known designer like Gehry.

"With millions spent," the panel concludes, "there is no memorial, and not even a memorial design that can be approved for construction."

   

Tagged categories: Architects; Construction; Design; Frank Gehry; Government contracts; Historic Structures; Monuments; Project Management

Comment from John Fauth, (8/28/2014, 8:35 AM)

Monumental wastes of taxpayer money? Lack of congressional oversight? I'm shocked.


Comment from john lienert, (8/28/2014, 9:44 AM)

typical government contracting.....it isn't their money.......


Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/28/2014, 10:43 AM)

Hmm....let’s see here... Government project, lack of oversight, designed by committee, influenced by special interest groups, political connections, taxpayer dollars, bureaucrats involved, broad project scope and goals and designs that are put forward but rejected...and it is only $41 million to date? Sounds like it is under budget for this type of work.


Comment from Paul Braun, (8/29/2014, 8:40 AM)

Maybe a simple monument, with an edited version of his farewell address: America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. . As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield. We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.


Comment from Andrew Piedl, (9/8/2014, 11:03 AM)

Great quote - I also like this one: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."


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