Congress may have been unable to check the spiraling growth of the national debt or the Social Security system, but it's taking a look now at another part of the federal budget that seemingly is out of control: presidential libraries.
Back in 1955, the General Accounting Office predicted that the cost of running a projected 15 presidential libraries by the year 2055 would be $1.5 million. The figure was based on the $64,000 it cost annually to operate the Franklin D. Roosevelt library in Hyde Park, N.Y.
But presidents have been turning over more rapidly since then, and, more importantly, their libraries have been taking up more space. Now, it is expected to cost $15.3 million in fiscal 1983 to operate seven presidential libraries. And two more -- for former presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter -- have yet to be built.
So Congress is considering legislation that, among other things, would limit future presidential libraries to 40,000 square feet.
Only the libraries of FDR and Herbert Hoover would meet that standard, at 37,000 and 24,000 square feet respectively. Harry S Truman's library takes up 57,000 square feet, Gerald R. Ford's, 64,000, Dwight D. Eisenhower's, 75,000, John F. Kennedy's, 90,000, and Lyndon B. Johnson's, 105,000.
"The 40,000-square-foot limit on the depository size should be adequate to accomplish the primary mission of a presidential library to preserve presidential papers and make them available to research, while allowing for a modest and carefully planned museum," William J. Anderson, director of the GAO's general government division, told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee last month.