The congressional committee tasked with overseeing the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial on Wednesday will consider legislation that addresses financial and design issues that have plagued the process and would oversee a potential overhaul of the commission running the project and its plans.
"We've had great concerns on how the money has been spent to date," said Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who sits on the House Committee on Natural Resources and drafted the bill. "What we're hoping to do is get a better idea of what has already been done, try to find that out before we appropriate any more money, and make sure we're doing it the right way."
More than $60 million has been appropriated for the memorial since it was approved by President Clinton in 1999, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission has requested an additional $51 million for construction costs for its fiscal 2014 budget.
The timing of the proposal is an attempt to act before the memorial commission's authority expires in September. The commission has 12 members — four from the Senate, four from the House of Representatives and four chosen by the president.
Mr. Bishop's proposal would term-limit commission members to four years and offer a chance for new people to serve on the commission or for former members to serve again if they are chosen. It would also revisit the most controversial aspect of the memorial — a contentious design that has been rejected by members of the Eisenhower family.
But the memorial commission doesn't see the proposal as an improvement.
In a three-page letter hand-delivered to the natural resources committee on Tuesday, retired Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel, executive director of the memorial commission, said the proposal not only "severely hampers, and in fact, drastically undercuts" the commission, it also would be "wasting the money already spent on the current design."
"To advocate for the removal of the current Commissioners is unprecedented and insulting," Gen. Reddel said. "This bill would waste the millions of dollars already expended. No one proposing a 'do-over' is offering to provide the funds to do so."
Mr. Bishop said the majority of opinions he's heard lean in favor of a fresh start.
His hope would be "to get some new bodies in there" to review the process of picking the current memorial plans and conduct another design competition.
"It's a really huge memorial that's atypical of the other monuments that we've done," he added. "If a new committee appoints a new staff and commission and they do another review asking for an open competition and come up with the same selection, that's legitimate. And I would go along with that."
Supporters say the design, by renowned contemporary architect Frank Gehry, was meant to capture the arc of Eisenhower's life, from his humble beginnings in Abilene, Kan. Eisenhower graduated from West Point and served in World War I before becoming the commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War II. He was elected president of the United States and was in office from 1953 to 1961.
The memorial honoring the 34th president is planned for a 4-acre plot of land between the National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Department of Education in Southwest. The design features a park area and stone panels engraved with portraits from Eisenhower's military and political careers set off by 80-foot columns supporting woven metal tapestries depicting scenes from his Kansas upbringing.
Mr. Gehry's name was first suggested in 2001 during the memorial commission's first meeting. David Eisenhower, a member of the commission from 2001, had played a central role in selecting Mr. Gehry as the lead architect. But he resigned in December 2011 after Eisenhower family members rejected the design.
Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the status of the federal funds provided for construction of the memorial. It has since been corrected.
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