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Tensions on Eisenhower Memorial Rising Again

“Could it be that the report is an embarrassment to the Memorial’s backers?” reads an article on the website.

According to a statement from Julia Koster, NCPC director of the Office of Public Engagement, the organization was told by the GSA that the report “contained sensitive but unclassified information [and] asked NCPC to remove the summary for its website.”

Koster added that the NCPC is working with the GSA to determine what could and could not be posted on the website, and “at the conclusion of these conversations, NCPC intends to re-post for public use.”

GSA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara also told Roll Call that the agency was “initially concerned that the … report may have contained sensitive structural building information and, based on communications from Gehry Partners, potentially propriety information.

“Out of an abundance of caution, GSA requested that the NCPC temporarily remove the material from its public website,” Alcantara continued.

In addition to providing findings relating to the durability of the design, the report contains specific information about the design structure that could theoretically be used by terrorists seeking to attack the memorial or surrounding area. A GSA order spurred by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City requires the agency to make sure there is no public information available that could abet another such attack.

“While GSA is not the manager of this project, GSA is merely acting as a procurement arm of [the Eisenhower Memorial Commission],” Alcantara explained. “We are currently reviewing our order to determine its applicability, if any, to the memorial project.”

A Long Road

The commission, established by Congress in 1999 to orchestrate an Eisenhower memorial that was originally estimated to cost $90 million to $110 million and now has an estimated $142 million price tag, had hoped to break ground by the year’s end on the memorial to the former president and World War II hero.

Those hopes appear to have been dashed as the project has been slowed by controversy, starting with Eisenhower’s children and grandchildren, who say the tribute is unfitting to his legacy.

Members of Congress, who appropriate some of the money for the project, also began to voice dissatisfaction with the decision to center the memorial around a statue depicting Eisenhower as a young boy looking out on a tableau of what he would accomplish in his life.

“Depicting [Eisenhower] as a barefoot adolescent is inappropriate for a memorial on the National Mall and would not convey the importance of his achievements,” wrote Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) in a letter to the NCPC in February.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands convened a hearing in March as the dispute reached a fever pitch. The commission argued it had sought appropriate public input on the design all stakeholders liked; others countered that not only was the design bad, but that Gehry had been chosen in a “fixed” selection process and the commission had operated without appropriate transparency.

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