Old historic airplanes on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Makes Maintenance a Priority

  January 2, 2020

By Dan Hounsell


For decades, many of the nation’s institutional and commercial facilities have complained to anyone who would listen about the financial burden that deferred maintenance — leaking roofs, crumbling walls, failing HVAC systems — had placed on their organizations. They simply didn’t have the millions and even billions of dollars needed to make long-overdue repairs.

Then, in the next breath, many of these same organizations would announce the opening of a major new building, and the cries of poverty turned to buzz about the shiny new toy.

Now, finally, one high-profile organization has said enough is enough when it comes to continued expansion in the face of mounting maintenance needs.

The Smithsonian Institution's chief says his top priority is getting on top of a huge maintenance backlog at the world's largest museum and research complex before he considers expanding. Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch III recently told a House subcommittee that the repair backlog recently surpassed $1 billion, according to NBC 12.

“A billion dollar backlog may sound insurmountable, but it’s not,” he says. “Since becoming secretary, I’ve had a chance to look at this with fresh eyes. I want us to analyze our maintenance projects building by building.”

He added that part of the reason the backlog has been steadily increasing is that repairs aren’t “sexy” to donors, many of whom would rather put their money to more visible changes.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.



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