U.S. Commission of Fine Arts Strategic Plan 2016-2021

 Commission Members
 Message from the Chairman
 Our Mission
 Our Vision
 Our Values
 Our Customers
 Our Products and Services
 Goals, Objectives, and Strategies (2011-2017)
 Accomplishing Our Goals
 Operating Assumptions
 External Factors That Could Affect Achievement of Our Goals
 The Relationship: General Goals and Objectives and Annual Performance Goals
 Key Statutory Authorities

Commission Members

Earl A. Powell III, Chair
Museum director and art historian

Philip G. Freelon, Vice-Chair
Architect, urban planner, and educator

Elizabeth K. Meyer
Landscape architect and professor of landscape design

Alex Krieger
Architect, urban designer, and professor of urbanism

Mia Lehrer
Landscape architect and educator

Liza Gilbert
Landscape architect

Edward D. Dunson
Architect and professor of architecture

Message from the Chairman

We are pleased to present an updated Strategic Plan for the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts. Our plan covers fiscal years 2016 through 2021. It describes our mission, vision, values, general goals and objectives; reflects our commitment to our customers; and presents a real plan for accomplishing our goals and objectives by the end of fiscal year 2021. Our strategic plan has been integrated into our existing program and annual budget processes, and together they serve to align the Commission's programs, organization and budget with our mission and function. This plan will be used as a tool in setting priorities and allocating resources.

Our strategic plan highlights activities that are both within and outside of the control of the Commission. At the end of each year we will evaluate our performance and measure what is achieved with performance indicators that directly relate to our core mission and statutory mandate. We will review the strategic plan each year, invite our stakeholders to review and comment on our plan, and revise it when necessary to reflect our changing environment.

Earl A. Powell, III


This is the Strategic Plan for the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts. It is action-oriented and will provide a strategic direction to the Commission over the next five years. It begins with a statement of Commission of Fine Arts' mission, vision, and values followed by general goals and objectives that will be accomplished by year end 2021. Each year a specific and detailed annual performance plan will be developed and submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress as a part of the annual budget process.

The achievement of our goals is based on the assumptions that there will be adequate levels of fiscal and human resources, and that staffing levels are appropriate for the projected work load, and that there are minimal changes in our external environment. Given the recent uncertainties with federal budgets and increasing fiscal constraints, the Commission of Fine Arts will continue to optimize resources and align its budget with mandated priorities. However, like any good plan, it will remain flexible, changing in response to the Commission's external environment.

As required by the Government Performance and Results Act (Public Law 103-62), this plan provides general direction to the Commission in the coming years and is focused on results.

Our Mission

The Commission of Fine Arts, established in 1910 by Act of Congress, is charged with giving expert advice to the President, Congress, and heads of departments and agencies of the federal and District of Columbia governments on matters of design and aesthetics, as they affect the federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nation's capital. The Commission consists of seven "well qualified judges of the fine arts," who are appointed by the President and serve for a term of four years; they may be reappointed.

The Commission provides advice to the U. S. Mint on the design of coins and medals, and approves the site and design of national memorials, both in the United States and on foreign soil, in accordance with the Commemorative Works Act or the American Battle Monuments Act, whichever applies.

Within the District of Columbia community, the Commission advises on design matters affecting the Historic District of Georgetown, under the Old Georgetown Act, as well as other private sector areas adjacent to federal interests, under the Shipstead-Luce Act.

The Commission administers the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program, which was created by Congress to benefit non-profit local cultural entities whose primary purpose is to provide Washington with exhibition or performing arts.

Our Vision

The Commission of Fine Arts endeavors to promote design excellence, protect and preserve the historical prominence of the built environment for America's capital city. Our vision is to enhance the majestic beauty of the Nation's Capital by providing the best advice on architecture, landscape architecture and sculpture. We are dedicated to promoting the best design of medals, insignia and coins produced and circulated in the United States.

Our Values

Mission Fulfillment
We are dedicated to the fulfillment of our mission to enhance, protect, and preserve the capital city's built environment, and to promote excellence in the arts for the nation and its capital.

Our professionalism is maintained through the appointment by the President of well qualified judges of art and design supported by a dedicated professional staff.

Partnership and Collaboration
We recognize partnership and collaboration as an important means through which the Commission will accomplish its annual and strategic goals.

Education and Information Sharing
We strive to educate and inform the public on our mission and role. Public outreach is key to our developing and presenting information that will be shared with larger audiences.

We are committed to respect, honesty, open communication, and mutual support among our members, staff and with the Commission's stakeholders and the general public.

Our Customers

President of the United States
United States Senate
United States House of Representatives
Federal Government agencies
Government of the District of Columbia
Local residents
American public
National and international visitors
Arts and cultural institutions
Associated professional and advocacy organizations
Academic community

Our Products and Services

The services that we provide are advice and comment on art and architecture through the design review process; our products are information about our mission and role through our publications, internet website, and other outreach activities. We also provide a forum for education and research on art, architecture, and urban design in the District of Columbia.

Goals, Objectives, and Strategies

Goal 1.0 To promote the highest standards of architectural and urban design for new construction in the Nation's capital.

Objective 1.0: Provide quality reviews of all submissions.


  • Review 100% of new construction proposals submitted for review within 45 days of receipt.
  • Engage in continuous and collegial dialogue with other Federal and local agencies on proposed projects and existing conditions in the national capital in order to safeguard federal interests and to enhance the appearance and symbolic significance of Washington, D.C.
  • Provide the District of Columbia government with design advice on matters pertaining to private construction adjacent to Federal enclaves and properties under the Shipstead-Luce Act.
  • Provide advice on matters pertaining to private construction adjacent to Federal enclaves and properties under the Old Georgetown Act.

Goal 2.0 To enhance the physical and aesthetic character of national memorials by providing quality review of all site selections and designs submitted for review.

Objective 2.0: Provide quality reviews of all site selections and designs submitted for review.


  • Review 100% of all proposed projects (site and designs) for national memorials within 45 days of receipt.
  • Safeguard structures and landscapes of lasting and historical value.
  • Review 100% of all proposals submitted for public projects and those submitted under the Shipstead-Luce Act within 30 days of receipt.
  • Review 100% of all proposal submitted under the Old Georgetown Act within 45 days of receipt.
  • Participate in the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission.

Goal 3.0 To partner with Federal and local government agencies to develop comprehensive long range plans that will ensure appropriate development in the Nation's Capital.

Objective 3.0: Collaborate with the National Capital Planning Commission to produce the National Capital Framework Plan, Southwest Eco-District Plan, and other studies or reports on planning for and analysis of the metropolitan region.


  • Engage in ongoing discussions with the General Services Administration, the National Park Service, the District of Columbia and other key partners to produce a plan to enhance the areas surrounding the National Mall.
  • Participate and guide the planning process to address underutilized federal lands in such areas as the Northwest Rectangle, Federal Triangle, Southwest Federal Center, Banneker Overlook and the southwest waterfront, Robert F. Kennedy stadium site, South Capitol Street, Anacostia River parks, and East Potomac Park.

Goal 4.0 To advise on the design of medals, insignia and coins produced by the executive departments of the United States government.

Objective 4.0: Provide advice on 100% of the proposed medals, insignia and coins submitted within 30 days.


  • Advise the U. S. Mint, the U. S. Army Institute of Heraldry, and other agencies to produce the high-quality designs for coins, medals, and insignia through staff consultation and review by the Commission.
  • Continue participation on the artist selection panels and the advisory acquisitions management team for the U. S. Mint's Artistic Infusion Program.

Goal 5.0 To provide support for the artistic and cultural institutions of national stature in the capital city.

Objective 5.0: Administer the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program.


  • Support artistic and cultural programs in the District of Columbia.
  • Provide grants for general operating support to non-profit organizations whose primary mission is performing, exhibiting, and/or presenting the arts in the District of Columbia.

Objective 5.1: Comply with the codicil of the will of Charles L. Freer.


  • Review 100% of all acquisitions proposed for addition to the permanent collection at the Freer Gallery of Art.

Goal 6.0 To enhance the Commission's educational outreach efforts.

Objective 6.0: Share information on the mission, responsibilities, history, and actions of the Commission of Fine Arts with local, national, and international audiences.


  • Update the Commission's website, expand, and improve the accessibility and usability of the agency website to deliver Commission resources to the nation and the world.
  • Continue the Commission's publication program to develop and produce books, articles, and other printed and electronic media, which enhance the knowledge of the history of the Commission of Fine Arts and its role in the development and shaping of the capital city, and the design of Washington's architecture, landscape and urban realm (built environment).
  • Continue the public information program associated with the centennial of the establishment of the Commission of Fine Arts in 2010. Use social media, when appropriate, to enhance the Commission's public outreach and advocacy for good design.
  • Provide information to academic, professional, and affiliated organizations regarding the actions, history, and role of the Commission of Fine Arts through web-based content, responses to information requests, and public presentations.
  • Explore opportunities to expand our services to the Administration, members of Congress, their staffs and the government as a whole.

Goal 7.0 In the spirit of better management inspired by the President's Management Agenda, work to improve or implement the Strategic Management of Human Capital; Competitive Sourcing; Improved Financial Management; Expanded Electronic Government (e-gov); Budget and Performance Integration.

Objective 7.0 Continue work to improve and modernize the Commission's management systems.


  • Implement the provisions of the Commission's 2016 Human Capital Plan.
  • Expand the capability and capacity of the Commission's electronic hardware and software systems. Explore opportunities to utilize Cloud Computing and wireless technologies to enhance the Commission's electronic data management.
  • Continue to develop and expand the Commission's electronic database of submission records.
  • Develop and implement systems for electronic file and records management, and reform records management policies and practices to align with the goals of the Presidential Directive to modernize the management of government records.

Accomplishing Our Goals

Operating Assumptions
Important elements in the success of this strategy are budget and staffing levels remaining stable; the continued professional development of our small staff; the continued facilitation of the submission process; and the Commission continuing its efforts to provide timely, concise, and easily understood recommendations and actions.

External Factors That Could Affect Achievement of Our Goals
There are a number of challenges that we will face as we set out to achieve our goals over the next five years. The Commission, in its advisory and approval capacities, is not the origin of design projects; it is the recipient of project proposals. As the recipient, our objectives are subject to the needs of other agencies, Federal and local, as well as those of private entities. Government construction projects materialize in response to the individual sponsor's needs and their schedules cannot be anticipated by the Commission within the framework of a five-year plan. The initiation of private construction projects is even less predictable.

The Commission, as a design review agency, is flexible by necessity. Its effectiveness and efficiency remain constant despite having no control over the number of proposals brought before it, or the relative size and importance of each item submitted.

Given recent federal fiscal constraints and the possibility of variable funding levels, which are most likely to lead to fiscally conservative budgets, the Commission of Fine Arts will work to maximize resources and align priorities within constrained budget realities.

Adequate personnel resources are needed to address: increasing caseloads and increasing complexity of submission reviews; expanding intergovernmental reporting; updating and expanding the web site to increase public participation and outreach; and providing administrative and IT support. The Commission of Fine Arts will continue to prioritize maintaining a full complement of staff, particularly in the core submission review functions, and attract and retain the best and most efficient workforce.

The Relationship

General Goals and Objectives and Annual Performance Goals

Annual performance plans will be prepared for each of the one-year periods covered by the Commission's Strategic Plan. These plans will be based on the general goals and objectives that have been approved by OMB and the Congress. The plans will contain milestone-type goals indicating the start and completion dates for individual tasks and will be included in the fall submission of our annual budget request to OMB.

Our performance will be measured and reported annually on the basis of input, output and/or outcomes and will be fully integrated with the Commission's annual budget. Performance information will be used to improve performance management and to develop greater organizational accountability for program results.

Key Statutory Authorities

I. Commission of Fine Arts Act, as amended. An Act establishing the Commission of Fine Arts. Public Law No. 61-181, 40 U.S.C. 104, 36 Stat. 371 and Public Law No. 86-461, 40 U.S.C.A. 106, 74 Stat. 128.

The Act established a permanent Commission of Fine Arts to advise upon the location of statues, fountains, and monuments in the public squares, streets, and parks in the District of Columbia. The Commission shall also advise generally upon questions of art when required to do so by the President or by any committee of either House of Congress.

II. Executive Order 1259 (October 25, 1910)

The executive order requires that all public buildings erected in the District of Columbia for the General Government be submitted to the Commission of fine Arts for comment and advice prior to approval by the authorizing officer.

III. Executive Order 1862 (November 28, 1913)

The executive order requires that whenever new structures are to be erected in the District of Columbia under the direction of the federal government which affect in any important way the appearance of the City, or whenever questions involving matters of art and with which the federal government is concerned are to be determined, final action shall not be taken until such plans have been submitted to the Commissioners of Fine Arts for comment and advice.

IV. Executive Order 3524 (July 28, 1921)

The executive order requires that essential matters relating to the design of medals, insignia and coins, produced by the executive departments, also the design of statues, fountains and monuments, and important plans for parks and all public buildings constructed by executive departments or the District of Columbia be submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts for advice as to the merits of such designs prior to approval by the executive officer.

V. Shipstead-Luce Act (Public Law 71-231)

The Act gave the Commission of Fine Arts authority to regulate the height, exterior design, and construction of private and semipublic building projects within certain areas of the National Capital. Specifically, the Shipstead-Luce Act applies to construction which fronts or abuts: the grounds of the Capitol; the grounds of the White House; the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue extending from the Capitol to the White House; Rock Creek Park; the National Zoo; Rock Creek and Potomac Parkways; the Mall Park System; Southwest Waterfront and Fort McNair.

VI. Public Law 76-248

An Act to include Lafayette Park within the provisions of the Act entitled "An Act to regulate the height, exterior design, and construction of private and semipublic buildings in certain areas of the National Capital," approved May 16, 1930.

VII. The Old Georgetown Act (Public Law 81-808)

The Act defined the boundaries of Georgetown, and officially designated the area a historic district. The Old Georgetown Act also gave the Commission of Fine Arts the authority to appoint an advisory committee, the Old Georgetown Board, to regulate the height, exterior design , and construction of private and semipublic buildings within the Old Georgetown Historic District boundaries.

VIII. American Battle Monuments Act (Public Laws 67-534 and 79-456)

The Act requires approval by the Commission of Fine Arts of designs or material for memorials submitted to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) prior to approval by ABMC.

IX. National Capital Planning Act (Public Law 82-592)

The Act requires that the National Capital Planning Commission seek advice of the Commission of Fine Arts in the selection of lands suitable for the development of the National Capital park, parkway, and playground system in the District of Columbia, and the States of Maryland and Virginia.

X. Commemorative Works Act (Public Law 99-652)

The Act requires site and design approval of all commemorative works on Federal lands in the District of Columbia by the Commission of Fine Arts, National Capital Planning Commission, and (as appropriate) the Secretary of the Interior or the Administrator of General Services.

XI. Foreign Missions Act (Public Law 97-241, Section 206)

The Act gave the Commission of Fine Arts the authority to advise the Department of State on designs proposed for foreign chanceries in all areas under the jurisdiction of the Commission, including the International Center.

XII. Public Law 85-263

The Act gives the Commission of Fine Art the authority, upon request, to advise the Heraldic Branch, Quartermaster Corps, Department of the Army, upon the merits of proposed designs for medals, insignia, seals, etc.

XIII. Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of August 8, 2012 (Public Law 112-154)

The law gives the Commission of Fine Arts an advisory role on the design of monuments in Arlington National Cemetery.

XIV. Public Law 100-102

The law transfers administrative responsibility for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Commission of Fine Arts. This program was established by Public Law 99-190, as amended (20 USC 956a) to provide grants to support the general operating expenses of artistic and cultural organizations in the District of Columbia.

U. S. Commission of Fine Arts
401 F Street, NW, Suite 312
Washington, DC 20001-2728
Phone: (202) 504-2200
Fax: (202) 504-2195
E-Mail: cfastaff@cfa.gov