March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Architect of Capitol Must Shuffle Money on Projects

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Hoeven has been one of Capitol Hills biggest champions for giving the Architect of the Capitol the $61 million necessary for the second phase of restoring the Capitol Dome.

The Architect of the Capitol received both good news and bad news this week.

On Monday afternoon it learned that, under the Houses continuing resolution to fund the government through September, the agency would finally be allowed to proceed with the second phase of restoring the Capitol Dome. That was the good news.

Sen. John Hoeven, one of Capitol Hills biggest champions for giving the AOC the $61 million necessary to save the historic structure from further and irrevocable deterioration, called the development a victory.

All along ... weve been working to get it in either the CR or whatever we ended up passing, so we can get it going, the North Dakota Republican said. Its very important that we get it going now so that we can get it done before the next inaugural.

And then on Tuesday: the bad news.

The money wouldnt be an add-on but rather a transfer from the AOCs existing account to fund capital projects, which are already somewhat anemic under the strain of past budget cuts and are poised to be cut further under the sequester.

There will be other projects in our budget that wont be able to get done, said Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, testifying Tuesday morning before the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.

Postponing some initiatives to prioritize others and making difficult choices about where scarce resources would best be spent has become par for the course for the AOC. At Tuesdays hearing aimed at explaining his agencys fiscal 2014 budget request and preparations for the sequester, Ayers cited $171.9 million in necessary maintenance projects that would have to be deferred indefinitely. This is not without serious risks, he cautioned.

The AOCs challenge, Ayers continued, is to maintain the original historic structures and features of the Capitol campus as they continue to age and deteriorate, while also ensuring that these structures do not pose safety risks to the people who come to the Capitol each day.

According to the prepared statement that Ayers submitted to the subcommittee Tuesday, the Capitol itself, currently in good condition on the AOCs Facility Condition Index, will degrade to a poor condition in fiscal 2017 if sufficient funding is not allocated for repairs.

The James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress, currently in fair condition, will also receive a poor rating in 2017 if money is not made available. The Cannon House Office Building is in the same situation, though its still on track for a massive renovation between 2016 and 2022 that will require staggered relocations for lawmakers and staff during that time.

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