Smithsonian to close zoological center

Other cutbacks planned despite more funding

April 10, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - The Smithsonian Institution yesterday announced it is closing its world-famous zoological research center and making other major cutbacks despite record amounts of private donations and a $50 million increase in its White House-approved budget.

Nearly 200 jobs will be eliminated.

The taxpayer-funded Smithsonian is the world's largest museum, education and research complex, with 16 museums in Washington and New York and six research centers, including the zoological center.

The announced cutbacks come amid complaints from Smithsonian scientists and scholars that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small is bent on curtailing research in favor of building projects and more crowd-pleasing public attractions.

Small, a former investment banker and the first non-academic to head the Smithsonian, said the redirections are necessary to modernize the institution and "support the institution's stated priorities of improved and expanded public impact, focused scientific research, management excellence and financial strength."

He also announced plans for an institution-wide consolidation and streamlining of science and research programs, which he will submit to the Smithsonian's Board of Regents next month. He would not reveal details of the consolidation.

The budget cuts and closures must be approved by Congress.

Small acknowledged that private donations increased from $147 million in the last fiscal year to $206 million this year - up from $40 million five years ago. But he said these donations were largely earmarked for specific purposes and not available for his modernization plans.

The White House has approved an increase in the Smithsonian's budget from $454 million to $494 million.

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