Publication Date

May 1, 1999

Celebrating Women in American History

On March 15 the President's Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History issued a report and recommendations on ways to best acknowledge and celebrate the roles and accomplishments of women in American history, fulfilling the commission's mandate as established in Executive Order 13090. Ann Lewis, White House Director of Communications, and Beth Newburger, Associate Administrator of Communication at the General Services Administration, who cochaired the commission, held open meetings across the country to hear testimony from a broad range of citizens interested in strengthening an understanding of women's past. The recommendations represent a distillation of the hundreds of ideas presented to the commission.

The commission outlined their recommendations under three initiatives: a national agenda, a community agenda, and women's history in the nation's capital. Under the national agenda the recommendations included the promotion of traveling exhibits, building a national women's history umbrella web site, and developing how-to resources for promoting women's history. The community agenda, which listed 10 ideas for celebrating women's history in local communities, included such initiatives as preserving buildings and records associated with women's past and developing new programs in schools and public areas for telling women's stories.

The final recommendation focused on women's history in the nation's capital and called for the designation in Washington, D.C., of a women's history site and the holding of a national event in March 2000 to celebrate the changes in women's lives during the last century and a commitment to even greater change and opportunity in the next. While the commission recommended "a focal point for women's history in our nation's capital," they noted that several solutions for a presence in Washington had been suggested and concluded that "however the focal point is chosen, we recommend that it serve as a destination for families who visit the capital to learn about our nation's history and be linked through technology with sites and resources around the country."

Declassification Update

The Department of Defense Records Declassification Advisory Panel met on March 5. One the of major items on the agenda was a discussion of the effects of the Kyl Amendment on declassification efforts. The Kyl Amendment refers to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 1999 passed last October that requires that all records that have a strong likelihood of containing restricted data, that is, nuclear weapons design information, have a visual page-by-page inspection prior to being declassified. On February 1, Bill Richardson, the Secretary of Energy, responded to the legislation by forwarding to Congress an implementation plan to prevent the inadvertent release of records containing classified information on nuclear weapons. The plan outlines a program for training other agency reviewers to identify "restricted data provides guidance to agencies, initiates a process for monitoring the reviews, establishes a timetable for implementing the plan, and estimates the costs of implementing the plan at $8.54 million in fiscal 1999 and $6.1 million in 2000.

A representative of the Department of Energy told the Advisory Committee that implementation of the Kyl Amendment will prevent the Department of Energy from meeting the goals of Executive Order 12958 of having all but the most sensitive historically significant records over 25 years old declassified by April 2000. He also noted that it will curtail reviews of Freedom of Information Act requests. However, the representative of the Army's declassification program said that the Kyl Amendment would have little impact on their program for they have always done page-by-page reviews. He noted that the Army has reviewed 41.8 million pages for declassification in the last 18 months and that 74 percent of the material reviewed had been opened. The Army anticipates very shortly being able to review one million pages a week. The Air Force representative stated that they had thought they were on track to complete their declassification of historically significant records by the executive order deadline next year but noted that the Kyl Amendment has slowed down their work. The Navy representative also voiced the view that the Kyl Amendment was very time consuming and was running up the costs of declassification. Throughout the discussion there were suggestions that the administration may be considering extending the April 2000 deadline for implementation of the executive order.

The advisory panel also discussed the difficulties involved in declassifying a document that contains the classified information of several agencies. Gerhard Weinberg, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina and a member of the advisory panel, urged that in developing procedures for handling documents in which several agencies have controlling interests in the final declassification decision that the age of a document be taken into account and that older documents, some created 30 and 40 years ago, be handled in a more expedited manner. In conversations following the meeting, Weinberg stressed that all of the big national security leaks had occurred in the 1980s when the government was making every effort to keep everything secret. In light of the recent allegations of China's covert efforts in the 1980s to acquire American nuclear weapons technology, Weinberg stressed that our security resources are spread too thinly and that instead of rereviewing on a page-by-page basis millions of very old records that there needs to be more attention to protecting the security of the most sensitive information. This approach of building high fences around the most sensitive material instead of low fences around all sensitive material is one strongly supported by the historical profession.

Archivist on the Budget

On March 4 Archivist John Carlin testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government on the fiscal 2000 budget for the National Archives and the grants program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The one-hour hearing was good-spirited, with substantive discussions interspersed by friendly banter. Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), the chair, presided, with Representatives Michael Forbes (R-N.Y.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Ranking Minority Member, and David Price (D-N.C.) also in attendance.

Carlin began his presentation by thanking the subcommittee for giving the National Archives strong, bipartisan support on appropriations last year. He then briefly summarized a number of priorities for the coming year: providing assistance to agencies in addressing records management issues, meeting electronic records challenges, expanding access opportunities for the public and agencies, and preserving records that are at risk. He stressed that the National Archives was requesting $228 million, 7 percent less than the funding level for fiscal 1999. This is because of the shift to charging agencies fees for storage and servicing of records that are still in the agency's custody. This applies to storage for the period prior to the disposal of temporary records or the transfer into the custody of the National Archives of those records deemed historically significant

The question-and-answer period took up most of the hearing. Representative Kolbe asked about the funding for and the plans for renovating the Archives I building on Pennsylvania Avenue. The fiscal 2000 budget includes a request for $8.5 million to complete the repairs and renovation concept design and begin the preliminary work. The 60-year-old building has many electrical, heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and elevator systems that need major work. The plan also includes reconfiguration of entrance ways, exhibit halls, stack areas, and office space.

The total cost of the renovation will be approximately $94 million. Major work will occur during 2001-03 and during this period the rotunda exhibit area will be closed to the public; but the building will still be open to researchers for the servicing of approximately 700,000 cubic feet of records.

While World War I records and New Deal records now held at Archives I will be transferred to Archives II, congressional records, Supreme Court records, and most pre-World War I military records will remain at Archives I.

Kolbe also asked whether the National Archives will be able to meet the declassification targets established by Executive Order 12958 and specifically asked what additional costs were associated with compliance with the Kyl Amendment which was passed in October and requires page-by- page review of records to prevent the inadvertent release of nuclear weapons information. Carlin responded that the fiscal 2000 budget included a $6 million increase, partly to deal with Kyl Amendment compliance.

Representative Price thanked the archivist and the subcommittee members for funding in fiscal1999 for strengthening the grants program of NHPRC and spoke of the importance of the work accomplished with NHPRC grants. He also asked about how the reimbursable program of charging agencies for storage and services would work.

Kolbe followed up on this matter and asked the National Archives to alert the subcommittee if agencies are not paying the required fees. He indicated that if agencies fail to pay the required fees, the subcommittee would have to institute some hard-nosed approaches such as cutting off access services to agencies until storage fees are paid.

Representative Hoyer first discussed about the new technologies used in the encasements for the Charters of Freedom. He then turned to the question of the development of a new veterans' records center to reduce the time required to respond to veterans' requests from several months to 10 days or less. Carlin replied that progress was being made in this area. Hoyer then inquired when Archives II would reach its storage space capacity. Carlin said that they anticipate that the Archives II will have no available storage space by 2007.

A discussion followed of when plans need to be launched for the expansion of Archives II. Hoyer closed by noting that while there had been controversy at the time of the archivist's appointment, he now sensed that the National Archives was working well and stressed also that Archives II was a state-of-the art building, one of the best in the world.

The NHPRC Budget

The NHPRC met on February 24 and recommended that the archivist make grants totaling $3.8 million for 62 projects. These include up to $425,000 for one electronic records project, $2 million for 38 documentary editing projects, $23,200 to support the 28th Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents, up to $922,436 for 16 access projects, $199,900 for a planning project for the congressionally directed grant to the Center for Jewish History, and $171,500 for archival and editing fellowships. The proposal that generated the most discussion was the electronic records project, which focuses on enabling representatives from outside the federal government to participate in international electronic records meetings.

Carlin welcomed Mary Maples Dunn, director of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, as a new commission member representing the American Historical Association and noted that Brent Glass, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, will be joining the commission as the representative of the American Association for State and Local History.

The Commission expressed support for the development of a documentary publication project for the papers of Eleanor Roosevelt with the suggestion that based on multiple teams working on different periods of her life—the pre-White House years, the White House years, and the post-White House years.

Diane Frankel Leaves Institute of Museum and Library Services

For the past five-and-a-half years Diane Frankel has headed the Institute for Museum Services and then the combined Institute of Museum and Library Service. She oversaw a smooth transition that merged the federal library and museum programs. Frankel took up a new position at the James Irvine Foundation at the end of March. There has not yet been an announcement as to who will serve as the acting director to oversee the operation of the agency until the president nominates and the Senate confirms a new director.

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