The Smithsonian exhibits and National Parks – worthy victims of sequestration?


Since sequestration came onto the horizon last year, the President has insisted it would harm the American people. And he has made this happen, by having White House tours cut instead of duplication, or funding protection for a pumpkin festival instead of cancer treatments.

Next up on the list? The Smithsonian exhibits, the National Archives, and National Parks

Budget cuts from Congress will soon reduce the number of free exhibitions on view each day at the Smithsonian Institution and will force unpaid leave for U.S. Park Police officers who guard the nation’s monuments in Washington, New York City and elsewhere, agency officials told Congress on Tuesday.

The House Government Oversight and Reform committee met for about three hours to hear the impact of across-the-board budget cuts on the nation’s treasures at the Smithsonian, National Archives and National Park Service.

Tea Party Patriots has long hammered the Obama Administration for its politicization of sequestration. However, in this case, is it possible the Administration made the right choice? Consider what the Smithsonian and National Parks are cutting, via the linked article above:


  • One program being delayed or canceled is “an initiative exploring the origins of democracy at the National Museum of American History.”
  • Education programs are being cut, “including an outreach publication for teachers with digital lesson plans that serves 80,000 schools.”

National Parks

  • The police force that guards memorials and monuments across NYC, D.C., and San Francisco is being furloughed – possibly as much as 14 days unpaid leave for each of 767 officers.
  • The National Mall’s memorials will remain open all day, but “officials may cut staffing at ranger stations after 10 p.m. Currently rangers are on duty until about 11:30 p.m. to interact with visitors who come to see the memorials at night.”

I do have some sympathy for the National Parks Service Director – as he noted in his testimony, it is relatively difficult to make budget changes mid-year. However, consider the following:

First, many Tea Party activists do not believe in a federally funded education system. By eliminating education programs at the Smithsonian, this may be the first step in highlighting just how good America’s education system can be without federal interference.

Second, perhaps the National Parks Service would consider privatizing its security force guarding the memorials? Would this be less costly?

Third, why should taxpayer money go towards rangers whose job is to “interact with visitors?” Aren’t rangers supposed to be there for security and other more important matters?

And, finally, many fiscal conservatives have said the federal government should sell some of its National Parks, thus divesting the government of costly assets and providing one-time extra revenue that should go towards balancing the budget. This may be a good time to make that case again to the American people, taking advantage of sequestration.

As an addendum, in case you’re curious, check out what the National Parks Service’s budget requests include for Fiscal Year 2014, on Page 11:

The $40.0 million in targeted increases proposed include those which would enhance critical resource stewardship activities, including $5.2 million to control invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels; $5.0 million to competitively fund the highest priority natural resource project needs at parks; $3.0 million to combat whitenose syndrome in bats and help preserve important cave habitats and bat populations; $2.1 million to address park-specific resource management and science needs such as management of native bison populations; $1.3 million to expand integrative ocean and coastal stewardship activities; $1.2 million to ensure a science-based response to proposed energy development adjacent to parks; $0.7 million to protect and restore dark night skies; $0.7 million for wilderness stewardship; $5.0 million for climate adaptive management tools; $1.0 million for work on biological carbon sequestration; $0.5 million for Alaska mapping; and $2.1 million to improve cultural resource stewardship activities by developing a geographic information system to better manage cultural and historic sites.

Again, the Obama Administration has made a conscious choice to politicize sequestration, and specifically target programs that directly impact the American people. In this case, however, perhaps the President has accidentally given fiscal conservatives new weapons in our fight against the ever-encroaching federal behemoth.