Smithsonian Salaries--Too High?

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Dr. Bruce Craig is the director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (nccph.org).

This bulletin is excerpted from Dr. Craig's weekly newsletter.

HOUSE APPROPRIATION COMMITTEE TAKES SMITHSONIAN TO TASK On July 9, 2002, while considering FY 2003 Department of the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill, members of the House Appropriations Committee expressed displeasure over high salaries being paid to top officials, singling out the $588,000 annual salary paid to Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small. The salary well exceeds that of the President of the United States. The committee also called upon the Smithsonian Institution (SI) Board of Regents to reconsider the decision to drop the name of aviation pioneer and one-time Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley from the movie theater at the National Air and Space Museum Theater. While the theater has borne the name of Langley since 1981, the current administration at the Smithsonian agreed to rename it for a major donor, the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Lockheed Martin donated $10 million for the Air and Space Museum Annex at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia in return for having the heavily-visited theater located on the National Mall named for the corporation.

According to Representative David R. Obey (D-WI), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, members of the committee are growing weary hearing about the shortage of funds for Smithsonian operations and stated,"we need an attitude change at the Smithsonian." In addition, Representative Norman Dicks (D-WA) stated that he found the idea of dropping Langley's name in favor of a corporate sponsor"incomprehensible."

Rep. Dicks added that the theater renaming was"by no means the only such controversy," and noted that" confidence in the Smithsonian by many members of Congress and the general public has been shaken." The committee then adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Dicks calling on the Smithsonian Board of Regents to review the salary scales of top officials and also to conduct a systematic review of all agreements with donors such as the Lockheed Martin. Another agreement that has brought criticism seeks to rename the Hall of Transportation at the National Museum of American History for General Motors Corporation in appreciation for a $10 million contribution toward the museum's renovation. The Regents are to report back to the Committee by February 1, 2003.

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