Publication Date

February 1, 2000

Perspectives Section


Update on Fiscal 2000 Appropriations

On November 29, after eight continuing resolutions, the president signed into law the final budget bill for fiscal 2000. The legislation cut 0.38 percent from most agency budgets, but gave agency heads flexibility to decide how this cut will be administered. The fiscal 2000budget for the National Archives is about 7 percent less than last year; however. comparisons are difficult because of the shift to the reimbursable plan whereby the National Archives will collect fees from agencies for servicing and storing their records at the Federal Records Centers. The National Archives anticipates that when the agency appropriation is combined with revenues from fees, the Archives’s total funds for fiscal 2000 will be greater than fiscal1999. The budget for the competitive grants program for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission will be at approximately $6 million, the current level.

The budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) had a 55 million increase. So even with the 0.38 percent reduction, the NEH budget will move up from $110.7 million in fiscal 1999 to $115.260 million.

The budget for the National Endowment for the Arts remained at the 1999 level of $98.8 million . The museum component of the Institute for Library and Museum Services increased slightly to $24.4 million, up from $23.4 million in 1999. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which had a fiscal 1999 budget of $5.84 million, went up to $6.79 million. The operating budget for the Smithsonian for fiscal 2000 is $372.9 million, up from $347.1 million. The Historic Preservation Fund includes $31.894 million for the state historic preservation programs, up $500,000 from last year. The budget bill also included $50 million, the same as last year, for the Save America’s Treasures program, which is part of the White House Millennium Program. The Nation a l Park Service budget increased from $1.287 billion to $1.365 billion. All these amounts will be further reduced by the 0.38 percent cut.

The Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) has a significant fiscal 2000 increase, with its budget up to $77.658 million compared with $50 million in fiscal 1999. The amount in the FIPSE budget for competitively awarded grants to support innovative ideas in higher education will go up to $30.6 million, compared to $22.4 mil lion last yea r. The majority of the FIPSE budget, $41 million, will go for 51 earmarked projects. The specified grants honor former members of Congress and provide a way by which leading members of Congress were able to take money back to their states and districts. Congress also increased distance education grants from $10 million in fiscal 1999 to $23.94 million in fiscal 2000.

Clinton Extends Deadlines for Declassification

On November 19 the president signed Executive Order 13142, which extends the deadline for declassification of all but the most sensitive historic records over 25 years old (established by Executive Order 12958) from April 17, 2000, to October 17, 2001. If records contain information in which several agencies have an interest or if the records pertain to intelligence sources or methods, the deadline of April 17, 2000, has been extended until April 17, 2003.

The amendment does not change the principle of Executive Order 12958 that all but the most sensitive material of historical significance that is over 25 years old will be automatically opened at the given deadline whether or not there has been a page-by-page review. The amendment does not change the role of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) in monitoring compliance with the order or the role of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel in considering appeals of classification decisions.

Because many agencies had fallen behind schedule, there had been discussion of an ex tension for over six months. Thus the announcement of the amendment came as no surprise.

The November 19 executive order may be seen on the Federation of American Scientists web site at, and the ISOO fact sheet on the impact of the amendment to Executive Order 12958 may be seen at amendfact.html.

Records of Congress

On December 6 the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress met for its semiannual meeting. As part of his report, Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl said that a proposal is being developed to reestablish the House Historical Office, and he hoped by its next meeting in June to have positive and specific news to report. He stated that the Legislative Resources Center, which absorbed the Historical Office several years ago, recognized the important services that had previously been provided by the historical office and the archival staff. He thus recommended the reorganization of the Legislative Resources Center, which would include-among other things-the reestablishment of the historical office. The advisory committee members expressed strong support for this development.

Gary Sisco, the secretary of the Senate highlighted in his report the recent publication of the Minutes of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference, 1911-64 and the Minutes of the U. S. Senate Democratic Conference, 1903-64. He noted that in earlier meetings of the advisory committee, scholars had identified the party conference minutes as having significant research value. Sisco took special pleasure in noting that an earlier recommendation of the advisory committee had now been implemented.

In his report, Archivist John Carlin emphasized progress on electronic records at the Super Computer Lab at San Diego. However, he said that while the National Archives feels confident now that it is on the right track in dealing with electronic records, large volumes of electronic records cannot be preserved and made accessible instantly and that there will be significant costs to the effort. He said that it would be three to five years before new ways of handling electronic records will be in place.

Interpretation of Slavery at NPS Sites

The Interior Appropriations Bill, which has detailed information on the National Park Service’s (NPS) budge t, also includes a section on the interpretation of Civil War battlefields. The provision expresses concern that Civil War battle sites are not always placed in the proper historical context and that at some battlefields there is vital information about the role that the institution of slavery played in causing the American Civil War is missing. The Interior Appropriations Bill thus directs the secretary of the interior “to encourage the National Park Service managers of Civil War battle sites to recognize and include in all of their public displays and multimedia educational presentations the unique role that the institution of slavery played in causing the Civil War and its role, if any, at the individual battle sites.” The statutory language makes clear that the National Park Service has done an outstanding job in explaining the different battles, but it goes on to say that the park service “does not always do a similarly good job of documenting and describing the historical, social, economic, legal, cultural, and political forces and events that originally led to the larger war which eventually manifested themselves in specific battles.”

Last year the superintendents of many NPS Civil War sites met to discuss mutual concerns and identified the need to expand interpretations to include the broader context of the war. In commenting on the legislation, Chief Historian Dwight Pitcaithley underscored the need to present the larger historical context. He said that the “National Park Service needs to tell people what happened, why it happened, and answer the question, ‘so what?'”

This provision, which was introduced by Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, calls for the NPS to prepare a report by January 15, 2000, on the education information currently included at Civil War sites that is related to this issue.

NEH Planning Grants for Regional Centers

On December 2 the National Endowment for the Humanities issued a press release announcing that 16 institutions had received planning grants totaling $800,000 to begin creating a nationwide network of 10 major centers for regional study. The centers will explore the diverse characteristics of the nation’s regions, such as local his tory, people, cultures, language, landscape, and architecture.

The 16 institutions receiving awards are: Arizona State University (Southwest); Brown University (New England); College of Charleston (South Atlantic); Michigan State University (Central); North Dakota State University (Plains); San Francisco State University (Pacific); Southwest Texas State University (Southwest); Temple University (Mid-Atlantic); Tulane (Deep South); University of Mississippi at Oxford (Deep South); University of Montana at Missoula Rocky Mountains); University of Nebraska at Lincoln (Plains); University of New Hampshire at Durham (New England); University of Pennsylvania (Mid-Atlantic); University of Utah (Rocky Mountains); and University of Virginia (South Atlantic). In the next phase of the regional humanities centers initiative, only one institution in each region will receive an implementation grant of $5 million, and each institution must match this amount 3 to 1, raising $15 million over 7 years. The planning grants have been underwritten by outside funding, primarily from major foundations.

Page Putnam Miller is the director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.

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