STATEMENT OF RICHARD G. RING, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK OPERATIONS AND EDUCATION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES CONCERNING H.R. 452, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A MEMORIAL TO FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN WITHIN THE AREA IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA REFERRED TO IN THE COMMEMORATIVE WORKS ACT AS "AREA I", AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF SUCH MEMORIAL
MARCH 8, 2001
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interiorís views on H.R. 452, to authorize the establishment of a memorial to former President Ronald Reagan within the area referred to in the Commemorative Works Act as "Area I" and to provide for the design and construction of the memorial.
While the Department wholeheartedly supports recognizing former President Ronald Reaganís significant contributions to the history of the United States, we believe that it is important that the establishment of a memorial follow the well-established process for authorizing memorials that is contained in the Commemorative Works Act of 1986. Following this process will provide the best opportunity for soliciting public input and resolving any concerns regarding the location or nature of the memorial. We therefore recommend that Congress defer action on H.R. 452 until we have an opportunity to examine options that are consistent with the Commemorative Works Act.
H.R. 452 would establish the Ronald Reagan Memorial Commission to plan for a memorial to former President Reagan on the Mall, somewhere between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. The Commission, which would consist of the Chairman of the National Capital Memorial Commission, a member appointed by the Speaker of the House, and a member appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate, would receive assistance from the National Capital Memorial Commission and the Secretary of the Interior, including staff from the Department who would be detailed to the Commission.
The Commission would be required to recommend to Congress a location and final design for the memorial no later than February 6, 2003. This panel would also be responsible for raising funds from the private sector for the design, construction and maintenance of the memorial. Three sections of the Commemorative Works Act would be waived by this bill.
The Commemorative Works Act of 1986, which guides the process for establishing monuments in the Nationís Capital, was enacted during the Reagan Administration following what some characterized as "monumental chaos" over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in 1982. At that time, Congress was frustrated by the lack of guidelines for the subject matter, siting, and design of memorials, and the lack of a public process. Congress and the Department worked together to study the process, delineate responsibilities and define procedures. Through passage of the Commemorative Works Act, Congress established the process that, today, ensures memorials in the Capital are erected on the most appropriate sites in the Federal City and are of a caliber in design that is worthy of their historically significant subjects.
The Commemorative Works Act envisions a two-step legislative process for establishing a memorial in Area I: first, enactment of legislation that authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to plan for a memorial without naming a specific site; and if, through that process, the Secretary recommends siting the memorial in Area I, enactment of a second piece of legislation that authorizes construction of the memorial. The idea of the two-step process was to protect the Mallóthe heart of the commemorative landscape of the Nationís Capitalóby ensuring that a decision to construct a new memorial there would not be made until the Executive branch had conducted an orderly, deliberate process on siting and design. However, H.R. 452, the initial bill for the Reagan memorial, would require this memorial to be sited on the Mall. The Department supports the process established in the Commemorative Works Act. We believe it is appropriate to apply a similar process to the selection of a site for a Ronald Reagan memorial and for design of the memorial.
Under the process established by the Commemorative Works Act, the National Capital Planning Commission, as the planning entity for all Federal projects in the Nationís Capital, and the Commission of Fine Arts, as an advisor on public improvements, location, and execution of public sculptures, play critical roles in the site selection and design processes. We believe that the expertise offered and the approvals required by those entities as well as the process for gaining approval of the Secretary of the Interior or the Administrator of the General Services Administration, as provided for in the Commemorative Works Act, has resulted in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
We also support the provisions of the Commemorative Works Act that enable us to gain a historical perspective on memorial subjects before a memorial is designed. The Act prohibits the authorization of a memorial to an event, individual, or group before the 25th anniversary of the event or the death of the individual or the death of the last surviving member of the group. The premise behind the 25-year stipulation is that succeeding generations can often provide a more objective viewpoint when evaluating the most appropriate way to honor people of historical significance or historical events. Notable among the many bills introduced in Congress since the formulation of standards set by the Commemorative Works Act were several to memorialize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The first such bill, introduced in 1987, exempted this 25-year period, and the legislation lapsed. Although successive measures were introduced for the next 8 years, Congress intentionally withheld action on a memorial for Dr. King until the 104th Congress, 25 years after the tragic occurrence of his death. Former President Reagan is a man who follows the rules, and we believe that he is better honored by following the processes set forth in the Commemorative Works Act, which he signed into law as President.
In addition, the Commemorative Works Act provides the American people with the opportunity to be involved in decisions about how historical events and persons will be honored in the Nationís Capital by providing for public involvement in the siting and design of the memorials. H.R. 452 does not contain provisions for any such public involvement in the Ronald Reagan memorial, and it specifically exempts the three-member Commission from the public involvement processes required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
By requiring a recommendation to Congress on siting and design of the memorial by February 6, 2003, H.R. 452 also places a far more difficult deadline on the Ronald Reagan Memorial Commission than under the Commemorative Works Act, which provides seven years to reach a decision on siting and design of a memorial. The average amount of time for site selection and design process for a major Capital memorial is 4-6 years after authorizing legislation is enacted.
Moreover, we have been informed by the Department of Justice that section 3(a)(2) of H.R. 452 raises certain constitutional concerns and appears to be inconsistent with other provisions of the bill. At such time when further consideration of the bill is appropriate, the Administration will be pleased to provide language to remedy the billís constitutional defects.
In addition to our concerns that, under H.R. 452, the Ronald Reagan memorial would not have the advantage of going through the well-thought-out process established by the Commemorative Works Act, we also are concerned about the requirement that the Ronald Reagan Memorial Commission raise all of the necessary funds from private sector sources to design, construct, and maintain the memorial. Other presidential memorials, such as the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, have all been constructed and maintained at least partly with Federal funds.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.