House Appropriations Panel Freezes Smithsonian Budget

The House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY 2008 Interior and Related Agencies spending bill on June 7, approving the budget level recommended by the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee for the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian Institution’s operations budget would be frozen at the FY ’07 level. The Smithsonian would receive $536 million for operating costs, some $35 million less than the administration’s request for fiscal year 2008.

The Smithsonian was sharply criticized in the draft committee report accompanying the bill. The report specifically cited issues of excessive compensation, inappropriate expenditures, the commercialization of Smithsonian assets and “a largely passive and co-opted Board of Regents.”

In addressing the recent departure of controversial Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small, the Committee stated, “the conduct of serious reviews and the removal of one official is only the beginning of a difficult process. Adoption and implementation of reforms are necessary before Congress and the public can be convinced that public funding is being invested wisely.”

The Committee also expressed concern about the increased use of exclusive licensing agreements and the awarding of contracts through non-competitive processes by the Smithsonian Business Ventures unit. The report instructs the Smithsonian to report back to the Committee within 60 days on its business practices and plans to reform them.

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