Eisenhower Family Raises Questions Regarding Process, Design of Proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

March 20, 2012

Today, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held an oversight hearing on “The Proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.” The hearing focused on recent questions regarding the development and controversial design of the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.
“I remain concerned that efforts are underway to usher through a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower that we cannot afford to get wrong. The law requires consensus on this project, which has not yet been achieved. Specifically, as a memorial to Eisenhower’s profound contributions and legacy, his family should have significant input on the final outcome of the project. As evidenced during the hearing, the Eisenhower family has concerns with the proposed design. In addition to concerns regarding design, I am concerned that the Department of Interior does not yet have an estimate for the maintenance costs that will be required by this design. Maintenance costs are something that must be considered and evaluated before this project can proceed. Given the concerns shared by so many and unanswered questions that remain, it would be my hope that this project be placed on hold until further discussions can be had about the most appropriate and responsible path forward,” said Chairman Bishop (UT-01).

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Eisenhower, testified on behalf of the Eisenhower family. She expressed their concerns about the development of the Eisenhower Memorial, both in the selection process and the resulting design and concept. “Eisenhower’s professional assignments carried none of the romantic notion that is embodied in the current memorial concept and design. He was the person tapped to end the horrors of a Nazi-occupied Europe and later to lead the United States and her allies to halt communist aggression and avoid nuclear Armageddon. The man we celebrate is not a dreamy boy, but a real man who faced unthinkable choices, took personal responsibility and did his duty--with modesty and humanity.”

The process by which the architect was selected has been a major point of controversy. Rather than holding an open design competition, which would allow anyone to submit a proposal, the Commission opted to use the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program. Howard Segermark, Chairman Emeritus and Director of the National Civic Art Society, outlined why this was an unusual choice. “[T]he American way has been to choose designers for memorials not just according to actual design proposals but according to entries submitted blindly. But as just noted, the Design Excellence Program reverses this by making the designer’s identity and record of paramount importance. Furthermore, competitions for national memorials have tended to be open, not closed, competitions, unlike in the case here.”

Another controversy surrounding the proposed Eisenhower Memorial is the amount of federal funding appropriated for the project. According to Brig. Gen. Carl W. Reddel, USAF (Ret.), Executive Director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, “The estimated cost for the construction phase of the memorial, including operating the Commission, site preparation, construction of the memorial, GSA fees, and a construction management firm, is $112.5 [million]. The Commission has requested 80 percent federal funding…” These estimates do not include maintenance costs after construction. In comparison to the Millennium Gate park in Atlanta, Georgia, which cost $21 million to construct and $312,000 annually to maintain, President of the National Monument Foundation Rodney Mims Cook Jr. predicts, “that it [maintenance] would be in the millions, per year, for the Gehry memorial.” Congress has already determined that President Eisenhower is deserving of a memorial, but the taxpayer’s interest must be protected in the implementation of this federally funded project.

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