Publication Date

November 1, 1994

Last spring Senator Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) and Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) asked the inspector general to investigate allegations that Acting U.S. Archivist Trudy Huskamp Peterson had used the Senior Executive Service (SES) performance appraisal system to punish and possibly remove three career SES employees whose policy views regarding presidential libraries differed from hers. The results of the investigation released in a report on September 2, defended Peterson's actions and positions.

The inspector general's report justified Peterson's concerns about how the assistant archivist for presidential libraries, one of the three senior staff to receive unfavorable performance evaluations, was interpreting the laws governing access to presidential records. Prior to the Reagan administration, presidential records were owned by the president and deeds of gift specified the provisions for access. However, beginning with the Reagan administration, the United States retained complete ownership of presidential records; and five years after the president leaves office, the unrestricted information is subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Regarding these provisions in the Presidential Records Act, the report stated that the interpretation of the law that the assistant archivist for presidential libraries had advocated ''was contrary to the plain language and stated Congressional intent of the Act and would have prevented timely access to public information in the Presidential Records of the Reagan and subsequent libraries."

At the end of September, Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries John Fawcett took advantage of the federal government's end of the fiscal year option for early retirement and announced his retirement.

Clinton Administration Tightens Restrictions on Travel of Researchers to Cuba

On August 30 the Department of Treasury issued new guidelines on Cuba that revoke the general authorizations for persons engaged in travel related to professional research. The new policy states that individuals who wish to go to Cuba for research must demonstrate a compelling need to travel to Cuba and must apply for a specific license that will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Many are protesting the new rules that will make it more difficult to do historical research in Cuba. For information about how to apply for a license, contact the NCC.

Senate Passes Resolution on Smithsonian Enola Gay Exhibit

On September 22, the Senate passed S. Res. 257. Following five "whereas" clauses, the resolution stated: "Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that any exhibit displayed by the National Air and Space Museum with respect to the Enola Gay should reflect appropriate sensitivity toward the men and women who faithfully and selflessly served the United States during World War II and should avoid impugning the memory of those who gave their lives for freedom." Many historians have expressed concerns about the controversial, and often unfounded, rhetoric surrounding this exhibit and about the implications for curatorial freedom. Both the Organization of American Historians' and the American Historical Associations' executive committees have written the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to support the revised August script for the exhibit

Update on FY'95 Appropriations for Federal Agencies

After a number of delays and revisions to the conference report, Congress finally passed the Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations bill, which includes the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) budgets. The FY'95 budget for NHPRC grants will be $9 million, with $2 million of that earmarked for a grant to the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Library at Boston College and $2 million for the Dirksen Center, which will be the repository for retiring Minority Leader Robert Michel's papers. The intended use of these earmarked funds appears to resemble "pork" more than the requirements for competitive grants set forth in the NHPRC legislation. 'The O'Neill and Dirksen grants were not a part of the Senate or the House subcommittee deliberations. Although the O'Neill grant appeared in the final version of the House bill, the Senate bill had no earmarked grants for NHPRC. The grant to the Dirksen Center appeared for the first time in the conference report.

While many in the historical profession have been waiting for the day NHPRC appropriations would be $9 million, a significant increase over the current funding, there is uneasiness over the inappropriate earmarked grants and the precedent they may set. Furthermore, it appears that the amount for competitive grants will be reduced from the current $5.25 million to $4.75 million. The final bill contained another earmarked item—$250,000 for the promotion of teaching on the Constitution. Because the language in the bill is ambiguous, it is unclear as to whether this $250,000 is to come from the NARA or the NHPRC budget. However, staff members for the congressional appropriations committees say that it is intended to come out of the NHPRC budget

The FY'95 budget for the National Archives includes additional money for the mortgage on Archives II, the new research facility in College Park, Maryland. The basic operational budget for the National Archives will remain close to last year's levels. Yet on closer analysis this will amount to a reduction. The National Archives will have to absorb from operational expenses the $2 million required to pay for congressionally mandated salary increases.

The National Endowment for the Humanities will be operating in the new fiscal year with approximately the same funding as last year. Likewise, the appropriations for the state historic, preservation programs and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for FY'95 represent level funding.

National Archives Begins Publication for Researchers

This month NARA published the first issue, the Record, designed to provide information to researchers about policy issues, particular record groups, activities at various archival facilities, and accessions and openings. The National Archives hopes to use the Record as a form for discussion and debate by both staff and users. To receive the Record, write NARA, Public Affairs (N-PA), Washington, DC 20408.

Search for New Executive Director of the National Historical Publications an Records Commission

NARA is seeking applications for the position of executive director of NHPRC. Through a grants program, NHPRC supports the preservation and publication of historical records. The composition and authorities of the commission well as the specifications about the types of projects to be funded are established by law. The, executive director is appointed by the commission which is chaired by the archivist of the United States. Candidates for the position are required to have a background in history and specific types of administrative experience. To obtain a copy of the vacancy announcement, call the National Archives Personnel Operations Branch at 1-800-827-4898. The deadline for applications is December 9, 1994.

Congress Passes Legislation to Promote Declassification of Intelligence Records

On September 30 both the House and the Senate passed the conference report on H.R. 4299, a bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 1995 for intelligence and intelligence related activities of The U.S. government the bill was forwarded to the president for his signature on October 4. Title VII of this legislation focuses on “Classification Management." In a somewhat unusual provision, Congress created a deadline of 90 days for the president to complete the revision of Executive Order 12356 on classification and declassification. Expressing the "sense of Congress," the legislation urges the president to establish a specific provision for weighing the need for classification against the need for public disclosure, to mandate that the government classify only information "that would cause identifiable damage to the national security," and to provide for ''the automatic declassification of information that is more than 25 years old unless such information is within a category designated by the President as requiring document-by-document review…." The current executive order does not include a balancing of public interest with security concerns, nor does it require "identifiable damage" for classifying national security-related information. The conference report on this provision states, "[T]he conferences intend to underscore their concern that the current executive order on nationalsecurity information, Executive Order 12356, is now more than twelve years old, was promulgated during the Cold War, and should be updated.”

In Section 702 of Title VII, Congress established a very innovative strategy for dealing with historically significant records over 25 years old. This section institutes a declassification plan that requires each of the intelligence agencies—the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency—to allocate at least 2 percent of the portion of their budgets spent on "security, countermeasures, and related activities” for the development of a declassification program. Although 2 percent of the security portions of these budgets will probably be a fairly modest amount, it will be asignificant increase over the current expenditures on declassification. The allocation of these funds indicates, Congress’s concern about the enormous problems with the current classification system and will provide the oversight committees with an opportunity to monitor more closely agency declassification programs. Furthermore, this percentage of The budget approach may set a precedent for other agencies to follow.

Leadership for these provisions in the intelligence agencies authorization bill came from Representative Dan Glickman (D-Kans.), the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Representative David E. Skaggs (D-Colo.).

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