From the National Coalition for History column of the October 2009 issue of Perspectives on History

The Fiscal 2010 Federal Budget: Prospects for the History and Archives Communities

Lee White, October 2009

Despite the generally tight budget parameters for discretionary non-defense programs this year, federal programs of interest to the historical and archival communities would fare well under the fiscal 2010 budget passed by the House and pending in the Senate at the time of writing (September 9, 2009).

National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) budget would increase by $10 million from the current fiscal year’s $447 million to nearly $457 million under the fiscal year (FY) 2010 Financial Services and General Government funding bill (HR 3170, H. Rept. 111-202) passed by the House of Representatives on July 16. NARA’s budget would mirror the Obama administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 budget request, with the exception of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) which would receive an additional $3 million (see related story).

The Senate version of the bill (S. 1432, S. Rept. 111-43) cleared the Appropriations Committee in July and awaits floor action. Funding for NARA in the bill is the same as the House bill and the Administration’s budget request. Again the only difference is in funding for the NHPRC, with the Senate providing $12 million, $1 million less than the House.

Please note that for comparison purposes, the fiscal 2009 budget number will be included in parentheses after the amount proposed for fiscal 2010.

Operating Expenses: $339.8 million ($327.3 million). Operating Expenses are funds for covering general overhead expenses such as energy and security costs, rents and building operations for NARA facilities around the country, increased technology costs, and salaries for NARA staff.

Electronic Records Archives (ERA) project: $85.5 million ($67 million). The requested increase of $18.5 million is intended for developing the capability for providing online public access to NARA’s electronic holdings, expand preservation capabilities, increase system capacity, and provide backup and restore functions. Use of the ERA will be made mandatory for all federal agencies beginning in January 2011.

Repairs and Restoration: $27.5 million ($50.7 million). The bulk of the funding, $17.5 million, is targeted for completion of the renovations underway at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s (NHPRC) National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) budget would increase by $1.75 million to $13 million under the fiscal 2010 Financial Services and General Government funding bill (H.R. 3170, H. Rept. 111-202) passed by the House of Representatives on July 16.

Most importantly, the NHPRC would receive the entire $13 million in fiscal 2010 funding for grants. In fiscal 2009, the NHPRC received $9.25 million for grants (plus $2 million for administrative costs). The $2 million that the NHPRC receives in administrative costs is usually transferred from the National Archives and Records Administration’s operating expenses account. For fiscal 2010, the support for NHPRC will be included as part of NARA’s Operating and Expenses account base funding, so the full amount provided this year for NHPRC will go towards grants.

The president’s budget requested funding for three major programs:

Founding Fathers Online ($4.5 million): To continue the initiative begun in 2009, a pilot project to develop a new approach to publishing the papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. Funding will support the document preparation and encoding for online searching; and initiate a fully searchable online portal for the Founders’ papers that is free to the public.

Publishing Historical Records ($2 million): To continue a core NHPRC program of support for publishing the papers of key figures and movements. It is proposed that NHPRC will focus its support on new projects that deliver products in an online format and existing editorial projects that modernize their work flows, transcription processes, and editorial techniques. Support will be contingent upon stringent production milestones being met and publication targets completed on time. The $2 million is estimated to be able to fund approximately 30 projects.

Archives Preservation, Access, and Digitization ($3.5 million): This initiative will continue to focus on projects to process historical records and perform preservation of major collections; to target digitization of entire series of the most important historical records and to support efforts to preserve electronic records; to support state historical records boards in their statewide services; and to enhance the professional development of historical editors, archivists, and others. The $3.5 million would fund approximately 60 projects.

The House report provides the $4.5 million that the Administration requested for the Founding Fathers project. However, the House Appropriations Committee did not allocate the remaining funding, leaving it to the discretion of the NHPRC as to how the moneys should be spent.

The Senate version of the fiscal 2010 Financial Services and General Government funding bill (S. 1432, S. Rept. 111-43) cleared the Appropriations Committee in July and awaits floor action. Funding for NARA in the bill is the same as the House bill and the Obama budget request. Again the only difference is in funding for the NHPRC, with the Senate providing $12 million, $1 million less than the House. However, the Senate appropriators emphasized different priorities in allocating funding. The Senate directed that not less than $3 million be designated for each of the three funding priorities delineated in the president’s budget request.

The Senate appropriators included funding for two new programs established in the Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-404), including grants for presidential centers of historical excellence and grants to preserve records of servitude, emancipation, and post-Civil War Reconstruction. Noting the competing demands for already scarce resources at the NHPRC, the Senate Appropriations Committee included an additional $2 million above the president’s request to address the additional responsibilities. The committee directed that up to $1,000,000 of the funds provided be devoted to each of the two new grant programs under Public Law 110-404.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities would receive $170 million under the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill (H.R. 2996) (H. Rept. 111-180) that was passed (254-173) by the House of Representatives on June 26. This represents a $15 million increase over the fiscal 2009 level.

The $170 million is in line with the Obama administration’s NEH budget request. However, the bill as passed would result in a more significant increase for the NEH than the president had proposed.

The administration proposed transferring oversight responsibility for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program (NCACA) from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts to the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Obama administration’s budget included $10 million in new funding to NEH to administer a redesigned program of competitive grants to arts, historical, and cultural institutions in the District of Columbia.

However, the House rejected this proposal and retained the status quo with respect to the NCACA. As a result, the entire $15 million increase in the House-passed bill would go to core NEH programs.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill on June 25. The committee recommended a much smaller increase for NEH. The agency would only receive an increase of $6.3 million, up to a level of $161.3 million. The committee concurred with the House that the NCACA should not be transferred from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The National Park Service

The National Park Service would receive $2.7 billion under the House bill (H.R. 2996). This represents a $198 million increase over the fiscal 2009 level, which would, among other items, support the following four programs under the Historic Preservation Fund, which was allotted a total of $90.6 million:

Preserve America program: $6.1 million (zero funding in 2009). This program provides small grants to local communities in support of heritage tourism, education and historic preservation planning activities.

Save America’s Treasures program: $30 million ($20 million). These funds are used to make small one-time grants for specific local historic preservation projects to preserve a building or artifact that might otherwise be lost. All projects require a 50 percent match. The bill earmarks $5.16 million of the funds for 36 such projects.

State Historic Preservation Offices will receive $46.5 ($42.5 million), and Tribal Grants will be funded by $8 million ($7 million).

Under the Obama administration’s Economic Recovery Act, the Historic Preservation Fund received an additional $15 million in “emergency appropriations” for fiscal 2009.

The bill includes $9 million for Civil War battlefield preservation grants and also provides $25 million for new Park Partnership Project Grants, as requested by the administration. It is a matching-grant program that allows the Park Service to fund merit-based signature projects and programs throughout the park system. It allows the NPS to leverage, from nonfederal sources, no less than 50 percent of the total cost of each project. The program was developed to help celebrate the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. Congress did not provide any funding for the program in fiscal 2009.

Heritage Partnership programs–$17.8 million ($15.7 million). These funds finance grants to local nonprofit groups in support of historical and cultural recognition, preservation and tourism activities. The increase is to allow funding for the expanded number of heritage partnership areas authorized by Congress. In the last two years, the number of authorized partnerships has increased from 27 to 49, including 9 new areas authorized in March 2009.The bill will provide at least $150,000 to the new areas without approved plans. The committee report language directs the NPS to develop new guidelines for this program that include self-sufficiency plans for all heritage areas within a reasonable period of time.

Japanese American Confinement Sites—the bill includes funding across several Park Service accounts for the preservation of sites associated with the confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II. The committee has included $2.5 million for the Japanese American Site Grants program, and lesser sums for specific sites and for acquisition of additional sites in the future.

The following two Cultural Programs will receive 24.5 million ($22.6 million).

Cultural Resources Stewardship: The October 2008 National Academy of Public Administration report entitled Saving Our History: A Review of the National Park Cultural Resource Programs made several recommendations to improve the Park Service’s stewardship of cultural resources including: new performance measures, park superintendent accountability, museum management, and funding and staffing. The committee directed the NPS director to report back to the committee on how future budgets will address the recommendations in the NAPA report.

Sesquicentennial Civil War Planning—In anticipation of the upcoming Sesquicentennial of the Civil War the House Appropriations Committee encouraged the National Park Service, in collaboration with the Civil War Preservation Trust and other organizations, to update the content of its web site and the information available at its Civil War parks and to employ modern technology and adaptive and interactive media to present this information to the public.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill proposed the following programmatic allocations:

Historic Preservation Fund: $74.5 ($69.5 million); Save America’s Treasures: $20 million ($20 million); State Historic Preservation Offices: $46.5 million ($42.5 million); Tribal Grants: $8 Million ($7 million); Heritage Partnership programs: $17.7 million ($15.7 million); Preserve America: $3.2 million (zero funding); Cultural Programs: $26 million ($22.6 million), of which $3 million is allocated to the Japanese American Confinement Site grant program; Civil War Battlefield Protection Grants: $4 Million.

The bill also included $1 million for the establishment of a pilot program for the teaching of American history and civics in the National Parks. The committee directed the NPS to work cooperatively with the Department of Education in developing the curriculum and facilitating the process of bringing nationally renowned scholars to historically significant NPS units to instruct students and teachers at the sites where important historical events occurred. The House report does not contain similar language.

The Senate bill does not include funding for the Park Partnership Project Grants program, on the grounds that the NPS received $735 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that could be used for these types of projects.

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution would receive $774 million under the House-passed bill. This represents a $43 million increase over the fiscal 2009. Of the proposed amount, $634 million is allocated to salaries and expenses and $140 million for facilities capital expenditures.

The GAO and other independent analyses have estimated that the Smithsonian still has a deferred maintenance backlog of $2.5 billion. As a result, the committee recommended $140 million for the facilities capital budget, a $17 million increase over fiscal 2009.

The committee transferred $15 million appropriated for the Legacy Fund in fiscal 2008 to the facilities capital budget to fund high priority deferred maintenance and revitalization projects. The Legacy Fund was established in fiscal year 2008 to address major facility repair needs at the Smithsonian Institution. Funds were to have been matched by private donations on a dollar for dollar basis. However the program appears to have been terminated and the seed money has been reallocated to the regular maintenance account.

The bill includes $20 million for the design of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture which will be built on the National Mall. The bill also includes $12.6 million for the replacement of the roof at the Arts and Industries Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill includes $759 million for the Smithsonian Institution, allocating $634 million for salaries and expenses, $125 million for facilities capital and $20 million for the African American History Museum.

Unlike the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $30,million for the Legacy Fund in fiscal year 2010. The administration’s budget request did not propose to include an appropriation for this account. The committee has included language in the bill to target the Legacy Fund specifically to the development of a public-private partnership that will facilitate the reopening of the Arts and Industries Building. The current 1:1 private matching requirement has been expanded to include major in-kind donations that contribute to the redesign and purpose of the new building, as well as privately funded endowments intended for the care and refurbishment of the permanent exhibits therein. The Committee has rescinded a total unobligated balance of $29,766,000 from Legacy Fund appropriations for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 and re-appropriated these dollars under the revised guidelines.

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