Publication Date

February 1, 2002

Perspectives Section


President Signs Education Bill, “Teaching American History” Initiative Authorized for Five Years

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law his “No Child Left Behind” bill that dramatically overhauls the nation’s education system. The measure-the centerpiece of the president’s domestic program when he took office a year ago-represents a political compromise that provides billions more in federal funds and giving local officials increased flexibility in spending the money.

After months of arduous negotiation between the White House and congressional leaders, the measure sailed through the Senate 87-10 less than a week after the House bestowed its blessing on the legislation by a vote of 381-41. The bill authorizes $26.5 billion in federal spending on elementary and secondary education in the 2002 budget year-about $8 billion more than in 2001. It’s $4 billion more than Bush requested, but nearly $6 billion less than many Senate Democrats wanted.

In Title II Part C (subpart 4) of the bill one finds a provision entitled, “Teaching of Traditional American History” which incorporates into law Senator Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) Senate amendment #402 (passed in the Senate May 10, 2001) to 5.1. The language authorizes “Such funds as may be necessary for fiscal 2002 and each of the 5 succeeding fiscal years” for the teaching of traditional American history grant program. To this end, the House and Senate have also concluded their conference on the fiscal 2002 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill (H.R. 3061). Included in the conference report is a specific allocation of $100 million for the second year of the “Teaching American History” initiative that is authorized under provisions of the “No Child Left Behind” education act. Now that the conference report is approved, that measure goes to the president for his signature.

Brown v. Board of Education Commission

On September 18, 2001, President Bush signed into law (P.L. 107-41) legislation establishing the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission to commemorate the famous Supreme Court decision in Oliver L. Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas et al. In anticipation of the 50th anniversary on May 17, 2004, Congress has established a 22-member body “appointed for the life of the Commission” and empowered to IIencourage, plan, develop, and coordinate observances” of the Brown decision

Great Falls Study Act

On November 5, 2001, the president signed into law (P.L. 107-59) legislation requiring the secretary of the interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the Great Falls Historic District in Paterson, New Jersey, as a unit of the National Park System. Congress authorized to be appropriated “ such sums as are necessary” to study one of the earliest industrial centers of America that once was considered the manufacturing center of the United States. The Great Falls Historic District has been a National Historic Landmark since 1976. The proposed park would encompass about 10 blocks and would be approximately 87 acres in size. Reportedly, the suitability study has widespread community support.

House Approves Reagan Boyhood Home NHS

On November 13, 2001, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 400) introduced by Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to authorize the secretary of the interior to establish the Ronald Reagan Boyhood National Historic Site in Dixon, Illinois. The legislation had the support of 154 cosponsoring members of the House and easily passed by voice vote. The bill has been referred to the Senate for action.

“The bill authorizes the secretary to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Foundation for the management, operation, and use of the site which currently receives about 20,000 visitors a year. The home at 816 South Hennepin Road is associated with Reagan during his teenage years. It was restored and refurnished in 1984 by the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Foundation to appear as it did during the period that Reagan lived there. Some critics question whether the boyhood home is the best site to recognize the historical importance of the 40th president of the United States.

ISOO Issues Declassification Oversight Report

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), the National Archives and Records Administration office that oversees the government-wide security classification program, has issued its Report to the President for fiscal 2000.

According to the report, 75 million pages of records having permanent historical value have been declassified this year by various federal agencies. This brings the total number of pages declassified since the program’s inception in October 1995, when President Clinton issued Executive Order 12958, to 795 million pages. This figure represents a net drop in total declassification of documents by 42 percent in fiscal 200l. Nevertheless, according to ISOO Director Steven Garfinkel, “The hundreds of millions of pages declassified under this order will provide researchers and historians with information that will help write our nation’s history for years to come.”

The report contains a number of interesting factoids: For example, the CIA declassified 5 million pages in fiscal 2000, a seemingly small figure that nonetheless is a record high for the agency (but see the next item). A second example, the Treasury Department, accelerated its declassification activity by a whopping 9,721 percent.

In addition to the data regarding declassification, the report also notes that the number of authorized original classifiers throughout the executive branch increased by 284 to 4,130. The report also states that the total estimated costs of the security classification government- wide increased by $200,000 million in fiscal 2000 to $5.2 billion.

Copies of the report are available from the ISOO’s offices in Room 100 of the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20408, or by contacting ISOO: telephone, (202) 219-5250; FAX, (202) 219-5385. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists, Project on Government Secrecy, the report is also posted at:

CIA Declines to Release Historical Documents

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is seeking to increase its control over the historical record of U.S. foreign policy by refusing to release four sets of documents to the State Department until State historians agree to new CIA conditions governing publication of foreign policy documents. Four Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volumes are affected. CIA officials told State Department historians in October that they were “under instructions [from the Director of Central Intelligence] not to proceed with business as usual” because of agency concerns about the release of historical documents relating to intelligence.

The CIA is demanding the adoption of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the agency and the State Department Office of the Historian before authorizing the release of the published volumes. Insiders report that the new MOU would significantly enhance CIA authority over the production and content of the FRUS series.

According to the latest minutes of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee, historian Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman “observed that those [document] packages were, in effect, being held hostage.” Rutgers historian and Committee member Warren F. Kimball said, “The CIA was making it difficult to work with them under the threat of ‘blackmail’,” Robert Schulzinger, chairman of the Advisory Committee, said the CIA’s proposed MOU “altered the way in which the Foreign Relations series is published and released to the public.” Further, it “curbed the authority of historians compiling the volumes and the authority of the Advisory Committee to offer advice.” Marc Susser, the historian of the State Department, emphasized that FRUS “is the State Department’s publication, and we cannot let CIA take over the series.” State Department officials have about 6 months to settle still outstanding issues in the draft MOU.

The dispute is described in detail in the minutes of the October 15-16 meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee that were approved for release at a recent committee meeting. The minutes of the committee are available at /state/hac1001.html#cia.

Report on Recordkeeping Released

On December 14, 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration released a “Report on Current Recordkeeping Practices within the Federal Government.” The report is an analysis of two significant data collections that reflect the current state of recordkeeping and records use in the Federal Government. Through the u~ of individual interviews, focus groups, and an Internet survey researchers were able to find out how agency officials and staff viewed records management and what they perceived its role to be in today’s modem office. More than 40 Federal agencies participated in the interviews and focus groups, and more than 475 individuals replied to an Internet survey. Researchers also examined selected business processes in Federal agencies to determine how records are actually being created and managed.

According to the report findings, many agency employees are unsure whether the electronic information they create constitutes an “official record” and consequently much data fails to make its way to the Archives. The report also found that many agencies have never integrated record keeping with their regular business practices. E-mail messages continue to be particularly troublesome. Only records such as case files tend to be well-managed. The report also identifies patterns in records management, suggests situational models to explain those patterns, and identifies points where NARA could effectively intervene to improve records management. According to NARA officials, the report has significant implications for NARA’s future policies and procedures. The Archivist of the United States invites the public to comment. The report is available on the NARA web site at

Fire at NARA Facility Damages Records

On December 4, 2001, a fire of undetermined origin broke out in stack 12 at the Washington National Records Center, a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) storage facility located in Suitland, Maryland. A sprinkler system contained the blaze, which was brought under control within a few minutes but not before damaging some 500 boxes of State Department and other records.

National Archives staff is still assessing the extent of the damage. What is currently known is that the State Department passport files appear to have been hardest hit, though Coast Guard and Navy records also appear to have suffered some water damage. Reportedly, constituent correspondence from four members of Congress—Senator Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.), Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oreg.), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) that were in courtesy storage suffered water damage. A team of National Archives conservators are on the scene and are evaluating what conservation measures need to be taken to preserve the affected records.

Eisenhower Library Adds New Resources

On Wednesday, January 9, 2002, the last of all known Dwight D. Eisenhower recordings of conversations were opened for research. On that day, the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, released compact discs of 38 Dictabelt sound recordings of conversations between Eisenhower and others recorded between September 1949 and June 1950 while Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University in New York City. The Dictabelts record approximately 15 minutes of conversation each and comprise a total of 21 separate conversations. The conversations were on a wide range of topics including politics, military history, loyalty and security, Eisenhower family history, the Middle East, charitable works, and world economics. In this release there are a total of 10 CDS, which may be purchased as a set at a cost of $150.00 or individually at a cost of $15.00 per CD. For further information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 713-6000 or the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library at (785) 263-4751-

The Eisenhower Library’s treasures were further enhanced recently by the discovery of Eisenhower’s handwritten diaries from 1944 to 1945, which document the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe through the surrender of Germany in May 1945. They were found among the personal possessions of Barbara Wyden, a ghost writer of a memoir of Eisenhower’s wartime secretary Kay Summersby. The two leather-bound diaries are now available to researchers at the Eisenhower Library

Smithsonian Collections Management Directive

The Smithsonian Institution has issued Smithsonian Directive 600: Collections Management Policy, the principal policy paper guiding collections management throughout the Smithsonian. Following an extensive revision, the directive was approved by Secretary Lawrence Small on October 26, 2001. For additional information contact: Bill Tompkins, National Collections Coordinator, National Collections Program, Smithsonian Institution Archives, (202) 357-3125 or

Bruce Craig
R. Bruce Craig

Independent Historian