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The 15-year-long effort to build a national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower is so mired in cost overruns, design problems and construction delays that it has become a “disservice” to the former U. S. president and war hero, a new House Republican report finds.
The project, approved by Congress and signed into law by then-President Clinton in 1999, remains in the planning-and-development stages but has already cost taxpayers $41 million, according to the 56-page report, titled “A Five-Star Folly.” It was released by the House Natural Resources Committee.
"With millions spent, there is no memorial and not even a memorial design that can be approved for construction,” members of the Republican-led committee said.
The findings are just the latest in a series of black eyes and setbacks for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and its project to honor the country’s 34th president, five-star Army general and World War II allied commander.
Much of the criticism has been directed at famed architect Frank Gehry, particularly his fee and design, inspired largely by Eisenhower’s Kansas boyhood instead of his military or presidential achievements.
The report raises questions at practically every step in the process about whether guidelines and standards have been followed -- from how Gehry was selected to whether his submission meets design principles and laws related to Washington monuments.
As a result, the design has yet to be approved for construction.
Further, the report also finds Gehry’s design, slated to be built at the base of Capitol Hill, was chosen despite the selection jury calling it “mediocre” and requesting another round of submissions.
A commission spokeswoman said Monday that the report is still being reviewed for both accuracy and context.
After paying Gehry, $13.3 million of the remaining funds went to those managing the design process or providing administrative support, according to the report.
"My firm has dedicated seven years of staff time to this effort, responding to multiple agencies and offices in Washington, consulting with concerned private individuals and undertaking extensive tests and assessments that went far beyond the original scope of services we had been given. And I personally have done all my design work pro bono," Gehry told Foxnews.com. "I regret to see that the memorial project has now been engulfed by a political process. ... Whatever happens with our design, we are concerned about only one thing: that a memorial is ultimately built and that it will both honor what Eisenhower did and truly reflect who he was."
Among the other problems detailed in the report were troubled fundraising efforts and contracts being “altered multiple times to reflect millions of dollars in additional costs.”
The commission’s current fundraising firm was expected to raise as much as $35 million in private money. But the commission has so far received less than $500,000 in gifts and donations, while paying $1.4 million to fundraising companies, according to the report.
House Republicans are so frustrated by the situation that they want a fresh start.
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, a Natural Resources subcommittee chairman, introduced a bill last week that would essentially fire everybody on the commission and allow the federal government to seize all of its paperwork until new members are appointed.
“President Eisenhower is worthy of a memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring his accomplishments and legacy -- and he certainly deserves better than the current memorial morass,” committee Chairman and Washington state GOP Rep. Doc Hastings said Friday.