The House yesterday passed a $317 billion defense appropriations bill that includes $25 million for the National Park Service to use primarily in the District and in New York City.
Funds for the District could be used for enhancing security around memorials such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.
“We have a considerable amount of money going toward [these memorials],” said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “There is enough for today, and as we go through this process, I have said if [the White House] requests additional spending and a supplemental, I would do everything in my power to move that right away.”
National Park Service spokesman David Barna said the agency supports President Bush’s budget and does not expect any midyear revisions.
Plans for improving the security around the memorials had been under way long before the September 11 terrorist attacks; with an infusion of federal money, the process could be expedited.
“We need it. We are in dire need,” said Sgt. Scott Fear, a public-information officer for the U.S. Park Police.
Sgt. Dennis Maroney, also with the U.S. Park Police Public Information Office, would not comment on a timetable for updating the security around the memorials. He did say that structures such as the jersey barriers would ideally be removed.
“We would like to introduce audio and video [monitors] into the area,” Sgt. Maroney said. “And this is the part that I am not really allowed to talk about the Washington Monument, but there needs to be more than just the jersey barricades, which have been there for four years as a temporary solution. .. . We want to keep it pristine.”
Construction of a visitors center at the Washington Monument, similar to but smaller than one planned for the U.S. Capitol, is also being considered. Security personnel could check visitors in and monitor them via closed-circuit televisions inside the monument.
“There could be a visitor-screening device, but much more modest [than the Capitol Hill center], maybe at the place where they sell souvenirs now,” said Mike Stevens, a Democratic aide for the House Appropriations Committee. “There could also be a tunnel system to take visitors to the memorial from the center.”
Mr. Stevens’ boss, Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, was not happy with the outcome yesterday. The ranking Democrat on the committee had sought $35 million for local memorials as part of a $7.1 billion homeland security bill.
“On homeland security and specifically on securing our national monuments, this bill is woefully inadequate,” said Obey spokesman David Sirota. “We need less talk about homeland security and more action. That means putting our money where our mouth is.”
Mr. Young said now is not the time to spend excess money just because the cause sounds good. “One thing we have to be careful of is that we do not use the terrorism of the September 11 attacks to spend a lot of money that people have wanted to spend for a lot of years and could not justify.”
The Washington Monument is being renovated is closed to the public and has nothing to do with the attacks. A date for fully reopening the monument has not been set.
Other memorials are fully open to the public.