IT HAS been more than 15 years since Congress voted to build a memorial on the Mall honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower. That is a longer time than it took the five-star general to help win World War II and serve two terms as 34th president of the United States. The time is long past for the completion of this project, so we can only hope last week’s final design approval by a key federal agency leads to the start of construction.
The National Capital Planning Commission on Thursday approved architect Frank Gehry’s plans for a memorial park to be built on a four-acre site along Independence Avenue between the National Air and Space Museum and the Education Department building. In June, the United States Commission of Fine Arts gave its critical, final approval. Among the features of the park’s design are sculptures of Eisenhower as president, general and young man about to leave for West Point, and a large metal tapestry depicting the Kansas landscape of his boyhood home.
Congress entrusted this project to a bipartisan commission and, to date, has spent about $60 million on it. Two federal agencies charged with the responsibility of approving federal projects have signed off after a laborious process in which Mr. Gehry made a series of revisions to deal with concerns of size and scope. At this point, a decision to break ground should be a no-brainer; unfortunately, however, it is unclear if Congress will provide the necessary money. Neither the Senate nor the House appropriations committees have provided construction funds in their 2016 budgets, and some lawmakers — responding in part to objections from grandchildren of Eisenhower and architectural traditionalists who are dissatisfied with the design — are pushing to scrap the project and start anew.
More than 15 years of debate and discussion is enough. Mr. Gehry has produced a design that, as judged by the federal government’s meticulous planning process for memorials, would be a fitting and lasting tribute to Eisenhower. We second the words of former senator and World War II veteran Bob Dole who, in a statement to the National Capital Planning Commission, said “Let’s get it done!” It’s time for Congress to provide the additional funds needed to make the Eisenhower memorial a reality.