Senators recommend Smithsonian shakeup

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Members of a Senate oversight committee yesterday recommended a shakeup of the Smithsonian Institution, starting with its governing board, whose members were depicted as out of touch with the management of the 160-year-old museum complex.

Calling the Smithsonian "an endangered institution," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) questioned whether the Board of Regents, which includes Vice President Cheney and Chief Justice John Roberts, is able to oversee the management of the sprawling collection of 18 museums, the National Zoo and a $1.1 billion budget.

"The time has come to examine whether there is a structure that will better serve this institution," said Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which summoned Smithsonian leaders to testify about what she called "serious issues" at the museum complex...

Testimony from the Government Accountability Office revealed that a backlog in maintenance had grown to $2.5 billion while the institution had ignored suggestions on how to fund repairs, and included criticism from the Smithsonian inspector general, who said the regents had been deliberately kept out of the loop about growing problems.

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