S.1537 - Indian Affairs Legislation



STATEMENT OF WILLIAM D. SHADDOX, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 1537, TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ACCEPT FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER FOUNDATION, INC., THE DONATION OF TITLE TO THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

OCTOBER 19, 2011

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1537, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to accept from the Board of Directors of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation, Inc., the donation of title to The National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, and for other purposes.

The Department appreciates the enormous significance of the events of September 11, 2001, to the nation and supports memorializing and providing educational opportunities to learn about that day and its effects on our country and on the world. We would like to continue to work with the committee and Senator Inouye to address issues noted below in order to clarify the role of the National Park Service (NPS), the appropriate funding mechanism, and the source of those funds.

On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists and nearly 3,000 innocent people at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, were killed. Since that day, millions of people from around the country and the world have visited "Ground Zero" in New York City. In 2003, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, renamed the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation, Inc. (Foundation) in 2007, was established as a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for and overseeing the design, construction, and operation of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. The memorial was envisioned to remember and honor the those who died in both the World Trade Center bombing of February 26, 1993, and in the September 11, 2001, attacks. After an extensive design competition, the Michael Arad and Peter Walker design, consisting of two pools in the footprints of the original Twin Towers surrounded by a plaza of oak trees, was selected. Through private contributions and government grants, a portion of the memorial site was constructed and opened to the public on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The museum is scheduled to open to the public in 2012. The museum will display artifacts associated with the events of February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001.

S. 1537 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to accept the title to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center in New York City, New York. The donation of the title is contingent upon the agreement of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, the Governor of the State of New York, the Governor of the State of New Jersey, the Mayor of the City of New York, and the Secretary. The Secretary would be authorized to provide both technical and financial assistance to the Foundation and to consult with the Secretaries of Defense, Education, Homeland Security, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of General Services to provide assistance to the Foundation. Further, the bill authorizes $20,000,000 to be appropriated annually, provided that they are matched with funds from non-Federal sources, beginning in fiscal year 2013.

As discussed with the sponsors of the legislation, it appears the objective of the bill is to have the NPS assume title for the site and provide an annual payment for its operation without any federal involvement in the design, construction or operation of the memorial. There are very few circumstances, if any, within the NPS where the agency holds title to a property, but has no administrative function. The legislation has no provisions for the site to be administered in accordance with the laws generally applicable to units of the National Park System, including the National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.).

In addition, the $20 million in annual appropriations authorized by S. 1536 would likely come out of the NPS budget, reducing the amount of operational funding available for the numerous needs of the 395 designated units of the National Park System. The National Park Service does not have a program that is appropriate or capable of absorbing an offset of the magnitude proposed in this bill. The $20 million in annual funding is larger than that appropriated for nearly 99% of the units of the National Park System. There are no other circumstances where NPS provides annual operating funds to a site not managed in accordance with NPS standards except for some affiliated areas which receive relatively small amounts. A more appropriate mechanism for accomplishing the purpose of this legislation may be to establish grant authority through an appropriate federal agency.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any members of the subcommittee may have.