Lawmakers grapple with AoC hiring

Architect of the Capitol (AoC) Alan Hantman’s 10-year tenure came to an end this weekend, leading many lawmakers to reconsider the architect’s role and voice concerns about what could be a lengthy approval process for Hantman’s successor.

Architect of the Capitol (AoC) Alan Hantman’s 10-year tenure came to an end this weekend, leading many lawmakers to reconsider the architect’s role and voice concerns about what could be a lengthy approval process for Hantman’s successor.

According to Drew Willison, deputy Senate sergeant at arms, the AoC has traditionally come from a design background and been an architect by trade, but some lawmakers have voiced their concern that Hantman’s replacement should have more management experience and be more familiar with running a secure facility.

Hantman, who was previously an architect in New York, was scrutinized when the CVC project was delayed and went over budget. In addition, Hantman faced criticism when several AoC tunnel workers filed a complaint with the Office of Compliance, saying that they had been exposed to asbestos.

The AoC is in charge of maintenance, operation, development and preservation of the U.S. Capitol Complex, which includes congressional office buildings, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, Capitol Police headquarters and several other buildings on the Hill.

Hantman was heavily criticized by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) on several occasions. Allard, former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch subcommittee, “hopes the new [architect] has strong management experience,” according to his communications director, Laura Condeluci.

But the approval process for the next architect may take a while. “It will be at least a year,” the chief of staff for the Senate Rules Committee, Howard Gantman, said. He noted that the selection process for Hantman took 14 months. AoC Chief Operating Officer Stephen Ayers will serve as acting architect until the president makes his decision, Gantman said.

The chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), said a permanent architect and an executive director need to be approved as quickly as possible, and certainly before the CVC opens in late 2007 or early 2008.

“The CVC is opening next year and there is so much to be done in terms of getting people in place,” McDonald said. “Since the last Congress, [there has] not been a lot of interest in getting an executive director. We’ve got to get an architect and executive director on board to hire 50 people. Last year it should’ve been done.”

McDonald recently met with Hantman to discuss the CVC and the role of the AoC. She also plans to talk to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and senators to get the approval process moving.

Millender-McDonald asked Hantman if his deputy, Ayers, knows as much about the CVC project as he does. Hantman assured her that Ayers is fully qualified.

“Ayers, they say, knows as much as [Hantman],” Millender-McDonald continued. “[But] I’m about the notion that you have to put permanent people in place.”

The architect and the executive director “are key and critical to success of the CVC,” Millender-McDonald said. “I just cannot believe we are still [undecided] at this juncture. We cannot wait too long. These people are too important.”

However, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a former chairman of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch subcommittee that has oversight of the CVC, believes that much of the architect’s job should be privatized.

“A large percentage of that function should be privatized [with] not so much government oversight,” Kingston said. He said that in some years there are too many projects for the AoC staff to handle, while during other times, the number of employees is higher than necessary given the amount of work.

“One of the problems is the architect is answering to too many people,” Kingston said. “It takes a rare individual to be in that position. Hantman has done a decent job. The whole game is rigged against him.”

A law enacted in 1989 term-limited the position to 10 years with the ability for reappointment. It also changed the selection process to include a commission, which selects three potential candidates and sends the names to the president. The president selects one of the nominees and the Senate confirms the appointee. Heidrick & Struggles was also hired to aid in the process.

The commission that selects the nominees for architect includes: the president pro tempore, the Speaker, House and Senate majority and minority leaders, and chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Rules, House Administration and House and Senate Appropriations committees.