GAO Faults Smithsonian Upkeep and Security
Leaks and Vandalism Threaten Collections
Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, September 29, 2007; Page A01
Deteriorating Smithsonian facilities have damaged historic airplanes, threatened collections and resulted in the leakage of tens of millions of gallons of water at National Zoo enclosures, while cuts in security staff have exposed artifacts in the institution's 18 museums to vandalism and theft, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday.
A backlog of construction and maintenance projects at the Smithsonian has ballooned to $2.5 billion, the GAO said, in part because Smithsonian officials insist that most facility repairs and upgrades be paid for through federal appropriations and not private money. The government provides 70 percent of the Smithsonian's money -- $715 million last year.
Well, you can't blame everything on George Bush, although it's easy and convenient. Even so, passing off another campaign contributor like Larry Small to run the largest museum and national archive complex in the world is another incompetency, a case of politics over judgment. Small was the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Federal National Mortgage Association, obviously a great resume for running a major museum. Watching what has happened in the sub-prime markets lately, it makes sense that a man with that background wouldn't take long to implode the 'nation's attic.' It didn't. While he was busy spending hundreds of thousands redecorating his personal spaces, the office and house the Smithsonian provided, the attic leaked and was vandalized. No matter, said small--you have to have your priorities straight and setting up a new fund-raising system that he could game for personal profit was part of the deal. He has since resigned in disgrace and under pressure, to join a long list of the incompetent (but connected). So, here's my solution. Take $2.5 billion out of Halliburton's stolen billions and fix up the old attic.