Open to Visitors? Assessing the Federal Effort to Minimize the Sequester’s Impact on Access to Our Nation’s Capital and National Treasures

Full Committee on Oversight and Reform
Full Committee on Oversight and Reform
Hearing Date: April 16, 2013 9:30 am 2154 Rayburn House Office Build

We’ve held a number of hearings learning about how agencies are managing the effects of sequestration. All of us believe that this has to be done in a way that prioritizes safety and minimizes inconveniences to the American people. In many ways, how this process impacts the American people ultimately comes down to management and planning.The overall issue of rhetoric versus fact is an important element to this conversation we are going to have at this hearing. Director Jarvis has been very public about what he perceives to be the draconian effects of sequestration – in public statements, he has fed fears that trash will not be picked up, that bathrooms won’t be cleaned and that access roads in National Parks won’t be plowed.

However, there is an inconsistency in what Director Jarvis has said publicly and what the Park Service has told us when they briefed Committee staff last week. A budget office representative from the Park Service told both Democratic and Republican Committee staff that 99 percent of visitors will not even notice any of the adjustments. That’s a far departure from Director Jarvis’ public statements.

It is important that we not confuse the issue here today.  No one disputes that sequester cuts are real. The questions and concerns are about whether or not this Administration is doing everything it can to minimize the impact of the sequester.  Earlier this year, this Committee sent a letter to the Department of the Interior asking just this question:  how can Congress help change the most difficult sequester cuts facing agencies like the Park Service to instead focus or more sensible areas?
To date, we have not received any response from the Department.

It’s worth noting that in 2008, the Park Service’s budget was actually 13.5% smaller than it was in 2012, but Director Jarvis was not then making the warnings he is today.

At the end of the day, this hearing is about how we can best work together to ensure the American people are not adversely impacted by outcomes that can be avoided by planning, coordinating and managing.

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
The Honorable David S. Ferriero Archivist of the United States National Archives and Records Administration Document
The Honorable Jonathan B. Jarvis Director U.S. National Park Service Document
G. Wayne Clough, Ph.D. Secretary Smithsonian Institution Document