STATEMENT OF JOHN G. PARSONS, ASSOCIATE REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, RESOURCES, AND PLANNING, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, AND CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL CAPITAL MEMORIAL COMMISSION, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERING S. 1438, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE NATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT MUSEUM ON FEDERAL LAND IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

APRIL 27, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1438, a bill to establish a National Law Enforcement Museum on Federal land in the District of Columbia.

The Department would not object to this legislation if it were amended as proposed in this testimony.

S. 1438 authorizes the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund to design, plan, and construct a National Law Enforcement Museum on land within U.S. Reservation 7 in the District of Columbia south of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Reservation 7 is one of the original public reservations of the City of Washington and, with the exception of the Memorial, is under the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia. Reservation 7 is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant element of the L’Enfant Plan.

The museum site defined in Section 4(a) of S. 1438 is partially occupied by three buildings. The largest building, occupying the center of the site is the Old City Hall, a National Historic Landmark, now occupied by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Smaller, separate buildings contain offices of the District of Columbia Government and the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. We understand that the specific site for the proposed museum is currently occupied by a parking lot for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. We further understand that the Court may be considering use of the proposed museum site as expansion space.

From an historic preservation standpoint we are concerned about the impact of locating a new building within this complex of six historic public buildings dating from 1820 to 1939 known as Judiciary Square. Rather, we believe consideration should be given to placing the museum within one of the existing buildings which is adjacent to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial now occupied by the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

If a museum cannot be placed within an existing building, we believe that placing the National Law Enforcement Museum below ground, in the area of the parking lot, with a garden on the roof of the museum, is a better alternative than a new above-grade building. This concept would be similar to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art, adjacent to the Castle Building of the Smithsonian Institution on Independence Avenue.

Section 4(c)(2) of S. 1438 also directs the Secretary of the Interior to maintain the exterior of the museum and the exterior grounds of the museum. The entities managing each of the 70 museums in the District of Columbia maintain their exterior structures and grounds without assistance from the Department of the Interior. Similar facilities associated with the United States Navy Memorial and the Memorial to Women in Military Service for America are the sole responsibility of the foundations that sponsored those memorials. The National Park Service, of course, has responsibility for the management and operation of the memorials themselves.

The U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation rents commercial space adjacent to the Navy Memorial. The Memorial to Women in Military Service for America Foundation built and operates the education center that is located behind the memorial at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. We have a strong partnership with both Foundations for events that occur at the memorials. However, we have no maintenance responsibilities for the museum or educational spaces that relate to those functions. We have no reason to believe that the addition of a museum in the vicinity of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial would impact our relationship with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. However, we do not support Federal maintenance and operation of privately managed educational or museum facilities. We suggest that the subsection on maintenance by the Secretary of the Interior be deleted.

S. 1428 requires that no Federal funds shall be expended for the construction of the museum, that the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund provide documentation to the Secretary of the Interior that adequate funds have been raised to complete the museum, and that the authority to complete the museum shall expire if this certification has not been provided within 7 years of the enactment of the legislative authority which would be granted by S. 1438. These requirements are similar to those provided under the Commemorative Works Act, which provides direction in the establishment and placement of memorials on parkland in the District of Columbia and its environs. However, the Commemorative Works Act is not applicable to museums, or structures intended to function as museums. While the Secretary of the Interior is charged with the responsibility of making a determination of sufficient funds for memorials proposed to be built on lands under the jurisdiction of this Department, U.S. Reservation 7 is managed by the District of Columbia. However, the Secretary would be willing to be responsible to verify that sufficient funds are available for the project.

That concludes my prepared testimony on S. 1438, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.