From The Coalition Column of the March 2008 issue of Perspectives on History

History and Archives in Proposed Fiscal 2009 Budget

Lee White, March 2008

On February 4, 2008, President Bush sent his final budget proposal for fiscal year 2009 to Congress. Here is a summary of the proposed funding levels for programs of interest to the historical and archival communities.

Teaching American History Grants

The Teaching American History grants program at the Department of Education would be substantially cut under President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2009 budget. In fiscal 2008 the program received $118 million and the administration would slash that by over $70 million to $50 million in fiscal year 2009. This is the same budget cut that the Administration proposed last year.

The administration's rationale is "the number of quality applications for assistance under this program in recent years does not justify the current level of funding." Senator Robert C. Byrd, Jr., the original sponsor of the program, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. So one can assume that the program's budget will not see a cut of this magnitude.
The Academies for American History and Civics, which supports workshops for teachers and students in those subjects, would be see its $2 million budget zeroed out.

National Archives and Records Administration

The Bush administration's proposed fiscal year 2009 budget provides $404 million for the National Archives and Records Administration.

The National Archives would receive $327.7 million for operating expenses, up $10.7 million from $317 million in fiscal 2008.

The Electronic Records Archives project would see its budget increase from the current $58 million to $67 million in fiscal 2009.

The Repairs and Restoration budget line would be slashed from last year's $28 million back to the $9 million it received in fiscal 2007.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission

As it has in recent years, the Bush administration has once again zeroed out funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. In fiscal 2008, Congress provided $9.5 million for NHPRC—$7.5 million in grants funding and $2 million for administrative expenses.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The Bush administration's proposed fiscal year 2009 budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) would see essentially level funding from $144.7 million last year to $144.4 million in fiscal 2009. The funding is broken down as follows (figures in parentheses are from fiscal 2008):

Grants and Administration--$130.3 million ($132.5 million) Programs under this budget line include:

  • Federal and State Partnerships—$31.7million ($31.7 million); Preservation and Access—$13.8 million ($18.3 million); Public Programs—$12.7 million ($12.7 million);
  • Research Programs—$13 million ($13 million); Education Programs—$12.6 million ($12.6 million)
  • Program Development—$356K ($356K); "We the People" Program—$20 million ($15 million); Digital Humanities Initiative—$2 million ($1.9 million)

Subtotal: $106.2 million ($105.7 million); administration $26 million ($24.6 million); and matching grants (Challenge Grants & Treasury Funds)—$12.1 million ($14.2 million)

National Park Service

The President's fiscal year 2009 proposed budget for the National Park Service (NPS) provides no funding for the new Centennial Challenge program, pending an expected congressional authorization for the program this year. In fiscal 2008, Congress provided $25 million in funding for the program. The Centennial Challenge is a ten-year initiative to generate $2 billion in public and private matching grants to prepare for the Park Service's Centennial celebration in 2016.

Here is a summary of major programs at the National Park Service of interest to the historical community.

  • Cultural Programs—$22 million ($23 million)
  • Historic Preservation Fund—$66 million ($71.5 million)
  • Preserve America program—$10 million ($7.5 million)
  • Heritage Partnerships program— $7 million ($15.5 million)
  • Save America's Treasures Program—$15 Million ($25 million)
  • Grants-in-Aid—$41.7 million ($45.7million)

The proposed budget also includes $2 million new funding to initiate a national inventory of historic properties.

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution would receive another substantive increase in fiscal year 2009 under the President's budget proposal up to $716.4 million. In fiscal 2008 Congress provided $682.6 million in funding up from $635 million in fiscal 2007.

The Smithsonian would receive $588 million for salaries and expenses, up from $562 million in 2008. The facilities capital account would increase from $105 million last year to $128 million in fiscal '09.

The Administration declined to provide any funding for the Legacy Fund. Congress had provided $15 million to address the Smithsonian's backlog of facilities repairs. Under the proposal, each federal dollar of the Legacy Fund must be matched by twice that amount in private contributions before the full amount would be made available to the Smithsonian.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

The President's budget request for fiscal year 2009 seeks $271.2 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This is a $26 million, or 10.6 percent increase over the fiscal 2008 appropriation of $245 million.

$214 million would go towards library grant programs, up from approximately $200 million last year. Museum grants would be funded at a level of $39.9 million, an increase of $8.6 million from the fiscal 2008 level.

—Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at lwhite@ historycoalition.org.