Publication Date

March 1, 2010

Perspectives Section


Post Type

Advocacy, Departments & Institutions, Funding for History, Historians at Risk, Museums


  • United States


Public History

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request to Congress has cast a pall of uncertainty on many history-related programs. The proposed budget for the Department of Education, for example, has created serious doubts about future funding for the Teaching American History grants program, at least as it is currently structured. The Obama administration has proposed consolidating 38 existing K–12 education programs into 11 new programs. As a result, Teaching American History grants is no longer listed as a separate line item in the budget, calling into question whether the program will continue to receive the approximately $119 million in funding it has in recent years.

Under the administration’s budget request, the Teaching American History grants would now be part of a new program called “Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education.” The administration is proposing $265 million in funding for the new initiative. These funds would support competitive grants to states and “high-need school districts” to improve teaching and learning in the arts, foreign languages, civics and government, history, geography, economics and financial literacy.

It is important to remember that this is only part of the administration’s proposed budget and Congress will have the final say with regard to funding priorities.

Other history and archives-related programs face similar cuts. A breakdown by agency of the administration’s proposed fiscal 2011 budget is summarized below.

National Archives and National Historical Publications and Records Commission

President Obama sent to Congress a proposed fiscal 2011 budget request of $460.2 million for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The requested amount for NARA is a 2 percent decrease of $9.6 million from the fiscal 2010 appropriated funding levels of $469.8 million. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) would receive $10 million in grant funding, a $3 million cut from fiscal 2010.

Although the president is requesting decreased overall funding for NARA, he is seeking increased Operating Expenses (OE) funding of $348,689,000, up from this year’s appropriated level of $339,770,000, or a 2.6 percent increase. The OE base increase will fund the increased costs for staff, energy, security, building operations, and information technology requirements.

The OE increase will also allow NARA to hire 57 new full-time staff members to support a variety of programs. These include:

National Declassification Center (NDC): Resources have been provided to staff and operate the new center. The president established the NDC within NARA to overhaul the government’s system of declassifying material. For fiscal 2011, the budget requests $5.1 million and 28 Full-Time Equivalents (FTE) to establish the NDC and hire contract support to design and develop an integrated interagency information technology declassification system.

The new IT system will need to be flexible enough to allow files from other federal agencies to be entered, reviewed and declassified. Ideally this system will be able to store the classified records, and provide Freedom of Information, redaction, and declassification services. To design and develop the interagency information technology system, the budget requests $2,800,000.

The budget also requests $2.3 million to establish the National Declassification Center office at the National Archives College Park facility. These resources will support hiring staff, and overhead and operational costs.

Holdings Protection Program: For fiscal 2011, the budget requests $1.5 million for eight FTE to implement a comprehensive holdings protection program to protect NARA holdings from external and internal threats. A new “holdings protection team” has been created to protect NARA holdings from internal and external threats. This team will develop loss prevention training and conduct compliance inspections.

Controlled Unclassified Information Office: Staff resources under the Information Security Oversight Office have been increased for the Controlled Unclassified Information Office (CUIO) to support expanded mission requirements. For fiscal 2011, the budget requests $1.2 million for nine FTE to increase the capability of the CUIO in order to meet its increased responsibilities and expanded mission.

Increase Archival Staff: The increase in OE funding will support 12 new, entry-level staff archivists, which will enable NARA to continue building a cadre of new archivists to address the agency’s growing records management workload. For fiscal 2011, the budget requests $950,000 and 12 FTE to address the growing workload of records and build a cadre of archivists for the future.

The president also recommends a 3.7 percent increase in the budget for NARA’s inspector general to hire one additional auditor.

Electronic Records Archives (ERA): For continued development and deployment of the ERA, the president is seeking $85.5 million, the same amount appropriated for the current fiscal year. Of the total budget, the administration is requesting that $23.74 million be made available as one-year funding and the remaining $61.76 million be made available as three-year funding.

Repairs and Restoration: For repairs and restoration to NARA-owned buildings, the president is seeking $11.85 million, a decrease of 57 percent from the current year’s level. Of this, $6.85 million is for base requirements for NARA owned buildings, and $5 million is for the top priority project on NARA’s Capital Improvements Plan, which calls for changes to the infrastructure on the ground floor of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.

These changes at the National Archives Building will enable the eventual creation of an orientation plaza to improve visitors’ ability to find their way to the Charters of Freedom, Public Vaults, Theatre, and temporary exhibit gallery. It will also create space for a new Freedom Hall gallery, expand the gift shop and create a My Archives gallery area that will allow visitors a glimpse into the research side of the National Archives. The Foundation for the National Archives has committed to raising $10 million in funding for the project; however it is contingent on the government’s decision to provide the core infrastructure to support the new development.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently held a hearing to determine whether the National Archives is overemphasizing its public education programs at the expense of its core mission of preserving records and making them accessible to the public. So the proposal to turn existing research space into public education areas may prove to be controversial during the upcoming appropriations process in Congress.

National Endowment for the Humanities

President Obama asked Congress for $161.3 million to fund the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for fiscal 2011, a $6.2 million cut from the fiscal 10 appropriated level of $167.5 million.

The president’s request includes $80.25 million to enable the NEH to fund grants in the study, preservation, public programming, and teaching of the humanities, including $2.5 million for a special initiative—Bridging Cultures—to enhance Americans’ understanding of their own cultural heritage as well as the cultural complexity of an increasingly interdependent world. An additional $14.05 million is requested for matching grants, which leverage nonfederal support for the humanities.

The budget would direct $38.515 million to the 56 state and territorial humanities councils to continue activities that range from reading and discussion programs to educational institutes for teachers.

Fiscal 2011 Proposed NEH Funding by Program (fiscal 11 proposed vs. fiscal 10 enacted, amounts in $ 1,000)

$2,500—Bridging Cultures (new initiative)

$40,370—Federal/State partnership ($40,370)

$16,250—Preservation and access ($17,116)

$14,750—Public programs ($15,616)

$16,000—Research programs ($16,866)

$14,750—Education programs ($15,616)

$500—Program development ($750)

$11,500—We The People Initiative grants ($14,500)

$4,000—Digital Humanities Initiatives ($4,866)

$118,765—Subtotal Grants ($125,700)

$4,550—Treasury funds ($4,800)

$9,500—Challenge grants ($9,500)

$14,050–Subtotal Matching Grants ($14,300)

$28,500—Administration ($27,500)

National Park Service

History-related programs at the National Park Service were particularly hard hit under the administration’s fiscal 2011 budget with the proposed elimination of two preservation programs—Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America and a 50 percent cut in Heritage Partnership programs. The president’s fiscal 2011 budget proposes $2.17 billion for the operation of the National Park Service (NPS). This represents a $21.7 million decrease over the fiscal 2010 level.

Funding for historical and preservation-related programs at the Park Service is summarized below. The figures in the parentheses after the administration’s proposed fiscal 2011 number are the fiscal 2010 appropriations.

Historic Preservation Fund—$54.5 million ($79.5 million). The proposal for the fund includes an allocation of $46.5 million for the State Historic Preservation Offices ($46.5 million)

Tribal Grants—$8 million ($8 million)

Save America’s Treasures program—eliminated ($25 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.

National Recreation and Preservation–$51 million ($68.4 million). This account includes:

Heritage Partnership programs–$9 million ($17 million). These funds finance grants to local non-profit groups in support of historical and cultural recognition, preservation and tourism activities.

Preserve America program—eliminated ($4.6 million). This program provides small grants to local communities in support of heritage tourism, education and historic preservation planning activities.

American Battlefield Grants program–$6 million ($9 million). The program provides matching grants to State and local entities to preserve and protect American battlefield sites outside the national park system.

Cultural Programs-–$25 million ($25 million).

The budget also provides $5 million for the Park Partnership Project Grants program. 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 launched during the Bush administration to help celebrate the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. Congress provided $15 million for the program in fiscal 2010.

Smithsonian Institution

The president’s fiscal 2011 budget request to Congress for the Smithsonian Institution is $797.6 million, an increase of $36 million from the $761.4 million appropriated to the Institution in fiscal 2010. The salaries and expenses budget request for fiscal 2011 is $660.8 million and the facilities capital budget is $136.8 million.

The salaries and expenses account covers salaries and benefits, rent, utilities, travel, routine maintenance, security and other operating expenses. This year, the Smithsonian requested an additional $3.6 million to partially cover mandatory salary increases and related costs, such as workers’ compensation, and an additional $147,000 for utilities, rent and other fixed operating costs.

A total of $1.5 million will be dedicated to staff and computer equipment to continue the process of digitizing the Smithsonian collections to making them accessible to researchers and people who cannot visit the museums by using the Internet and other technologies.

Facilities capital funds for fiscal 2011 are requested for a variety of revitalization projects, which total $106.1 million. The National Museum of American History would receive $18 million to convert the parking garage into useable space for collections storage during the next renovation phase (west wing).

$20 million in the planning and design budget is included for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in 2015.

IMLS and Library of Congress

The fiscal 2011 budget requested $265.8 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The president’s request is the same as the fiscal 2010 enacted levels for the institute’s programs and administration.

The president requested $35.2 million for programs that support over 17,500 museums nationwide. Museums for America, the Institute’s largest grant program for museums, would receive $19.1 million.

The president also requested $213.5 million for the nation’s 123,000 libraries. Of that amount, approximately 80 percent ($172.5 million) is distributed through the Grants-to-States program to the State Library Administrative Agencies in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and freely associated states, according to a population-based formula.

The Library of Congress would receive a $22 million increase for salaries and expenses in fiscal 2011, up to a level of $461 million.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at

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