Government bureaucracy makes a donation impossible.

This news item is illustrative of the problems with government bureaucracy. It talks about how a guy bought a big chunk of marble that he wanted to give to the U.S. Government so they could repair the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that has been in need of repair for decades, but the government can’t take it:

Retired Glenwood Springs car dealer John Haines’ hope of donating a giant chunk of snow -white marble to the federal government to replace the cracked Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is stalled again.

Haines’ hoped-for donation, which has sat outside the Yule Quarry near Marble since it was cut for the tomb in 2003, didn’t even rate a mention in a 34-page Department of the Army report to Congress this week on replacement and repair options for the deteriorating tomb.

Haines’ donation creates problems for the federal government because it is free and has not gone through a pricey bidding and specification process. A quarry in Vermont has expressed interest in submitting a bid.

This week’s report — the latest in a string of tomb reports done since Arlington officials decided the marble needed replacing 18 years ago — estimates the cost of replacing the tomb’s marble at $2.2 million — $80,000 of that for seeking bids, $90,000 for buying and transporting the marble and the remainder for sculpting.

Got that? They can’t take it because it’s free. Not only has Haines already bought a good chunk of marble, but he bought it from the same Yule Quarry where the original marble came from and he made arrangements to have it transports for free as well. All the government would have to do is carve it and install it, but they can’t because it’s Against The Rules:

“It’s not doable. A citizen can’t just give us any piece of marble and say, ‘This is what we’ll use to replace the tomb,’ ” said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington.

You’d think there would be somebody some place that has the power to say “let’s just use this very generous donation and get the damned thing fixed”, but apparently there isn’t. The cracks, incidentally, started back in the 1930s and have been getting worse ever since. Today they’re nearly 48 feet long on both sides of the tomb and a third crack has appeared. The only attempts at repair so far have involved filling the cracks with grout. Seems kind of silly to ignore an offer of marble from the same quarry simply because it’s free.

10 thoughts on “Government bureaucracy makes a donation impossible.

  1. People can protest all the like, but companies like DuPont would be forking over billions of dollars to government with the hope that it would become a favorable factor when it came time to prosecute and regulate them if the government allowed people to just “donate” money and goods like this.

  2. “People can protest all the like, but companies like DuPont would be forking over billions of dollars to government with the hope that it would become a favorable factor when it came time to prosecute and regulate them if the government allowed people to just “donate” money and goods like this. “

    The companies and industry interest groups already do that… indeed, they do so in a way that is more effective than direct donations to the treasury would be: they “donate” to the candidates for office.

    Besides, with a corporate tax rate of something like 37%, they already “fork over” huge amounts of money. A couple more billion probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.

  3. Lobbyists already do this with legislatures and election campaigns. You start allowing them to do it with middle managers trying to keep their programs afloat within the DoD and you might as well stick a McDonald’s logo onto our F-22s. It’s already bad and it’s the constant subject of ethics violation scrutiny – explicitly allowing it at all levels of government is madness.

  4. As a civil servant I can sympathise with the state.  In the UK there are all sorts of rules to ensure we are impartial and best value- even if its not. Example Govt Contract buys widgets at £1 each.  I can buy them at locally 79p each for our office BUT I can’t buy them because you get in to a sticky situation about favouritism, plus trying to control hundreds of local budgets- you just can not audit them. 

    Strictly speaking I am not allowed to take furniture home instead of putting it in the skip, because that is advantage at taxpayers expence. Even loyalty cards should not be used on official purchases- it calls into question why shop there (because I get points, even though petrol is cheaper elsewhere). Easier to blanket ban.

    What this chap should do is not make a gift to the nation.  He should contact the Whitehouse and Make A Gift To The Nation.

  5. I figure they should ask the other companies if they can match his $0 price tag. Hell…I imagine they need to run bids for the work anyway so just take the stone with a hearty thank you and an invitation to the opening ceremony.

  6. Somebody do some research, the Army just awarded the crack repairs in the marble for $1.00..also in essence a free repair

  7. John, you’d do well to follow your own advice. This entry is from over a year ago. Back then it was true. Thankfully the administration has changed to one that actually cares enough to deal with this issue.

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