Publication Date

November 1, 1995

Fiscal 1996 Appropriations Update for Programs of Concern to Historians

Unable to complete work on the fiscal 1996 appropriations bills before October 1, the beginning of a new fiscal year, the Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until mid-November. Although more work is required for most of the funding bills, the House-Senate conference committees have voted on the budgets for many of the programs of concern to historians.

The House-Senate Conference Committee on the Interior Appropriation Bill agreed to a fiscal 1996 appropriation for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) of $110.5 million and $99.5 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The House had appropriated $99.5 million each for the NEH and the NEA; the Senate had appropriated $110 million for each of the agencies. The most contested portion of the bill concerned the future of the endowments. The conference report to accompany the Interior Appropriation bill states, “The managers on the part of the House continue to support a phase out of NEH within three years, and do not support funding beyond 1998. The managers on the part of the Senate take strong exception to the House position and support continued funding for NEH. The managers expect this issue to be resolved by the legislative committees in the House and Senate."

The House-Senate Conference Committee on the Treasury Appropriation Bill voted for a fiscal 1996 budget for the National Archives of $199.6 million, an increase of approximately $6 million over' the amount recommended by the House. The appropriation includes the $4.5 million that had been added to the Senate bill by Senator Kerrey (D-Neb.) and earmarked for electronic records and finding-aid projects. The bill also includes the Senate figure of $5 million-not the $4 million in the House bill-for the grants program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. This bill has encountered serious snags on other issues, and the conference committee has not completed its work.

On historic preservation funding, the Interior Appropriation conferees were faced with different figures for each of the preservation programs. They voted to accept the lower figure for each of the programs. The funding for fiscal 1996 for the state historic preservation fund, which also includes funds for Indian tribes and black colleges, will be $32.7 million. The National Trust for Historic Preservation will receive $3.5 million and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is budgeted for $2.5 million. Currently the budget for the state historic preservation fund is $34.4 million, with $6.9 million for the National Trust and $3.06 million for the Advisory Council. The report recommends a three-year phaseout of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The fiscal 1996 appropriation for the Institute of Museum Services is $21 million. Its current funding level is $29 million.

Classification/Declassification Oversight Office Transferred

The conference committee on the Treasury Appropriation Bill voted to earmark $1.4 million for the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) and to transfer it from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to the National Archives. This office has responsibility for overseeing national security information policy and for implementing the new executive order dealing with declassification. The House bill had provided zero funds for ISOO and had suggested that its functions be taken over by the National Archives. The Senate bill provided funding and recommended that it remain a separate office and be placed under the Executive Office of the President. The conference committee adopted what has been the administration's position from the beginning, which is that it should have adequate funding and that it should be moved from the OMB to the Archives. Having the head of ISOO report to the U.S. Archivist raises some interesting policy issues and could give the Archivist a more important role to playing declassification policy.

Commerce Department Releases Report on Copyright

In September the Department of Commerce released the report Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure: The Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights. This report, often called the White Paper, concludes with a number of recommendations for revisions to the copyright law to deal with the intellectual property implications of cyberspace. The suggested revisions are an expansion of the definition of “publication” to include the distribution of copies by electronic transmission, modification of the preservation provision to allow libraries and archives to make three copies of a document in digital format, inclusion of a section permitting digital transmission for the visually impaired, and adoption of a copyright and management systems section that includes civil remedies for violations and infringement of copyright law.

New Records on Lee Harvey Oswald Released

On September 20 the JFK Assassination Records Review Board released more CIA records on Oswald's trip to Mexico City in 1963. "Lee Harvey Oswald's trip to Mexico City is one of the most important and intriguing chapters in the Kennedy assassination story,"said John R. Tunheim, chair of the review board. He noted that the board is seeking “to push the limit on new information that we can make available to the American public, while not endangering intelligence sources and methods which still require protection.”

Office of the House Historian

The Office of the House Historian has become one component of a newly formed Legislative Resource Center for the House of Representatives. The center combines the operations of Records and Registration, the House Library, the House Document Room, and the Office of the Historian. To head the center, the Speaker has appointed John J. Kornacki, formerly director of the Everett McKinley Dirksen Congressional Research Center. Although there is currently only one person in the Legislative Resource Center who focuses primarily on history, the consolidated office hopes to make history and access to historical records a vital part of the center's activities.

Review Panels Release Report on History Standards

On October 11 the Council for Basic Education released the results and recommendations of two independent panels that have completed their review of the National Standards in United States and World History. The two panels recommended some refinement but endorsed much of the work undertaken by the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA, which developed the standards and published them last fall. The standards seek to define what all American students should know and be able to do in history. Because of charges by critics that the standards were pessimistic and biased, the Council for Basic F.ducation sponsored this review with funding from the Pew, MacArthur, Ford, and Spencer Foundations. Albert H Quie, former governor of Minnesota and former ranking Republican on the House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired the panel on U.S. history. Steven Muller, president emeritus of Johns Hopkins University, chaired the panel on world history.

The review panels concluded that the overwhelming majority of criticism was targeted at the teachmg examples in the documents rather than at the actual standards for student achievements. They found that once detached from the teaching examples, the proposed standards provide a reasonable set of expectations for learning and a solid basis for strengthening history teaching. The panels noted that the standards' emphasis on historical thinking is impcrtant and useful for encouraging the development of students' critical thinking skills, and they endorsed the standards' use of five spheres—social, political, scientific-technological, economic, and cultural—to broaden the study of history.

Although Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley greatly distanced himself from the history standards in September, he responded positively to the report. In an October 11 press statement he said, "The recommendations announced today by the Council for Basic Education are an important step forward in the resolution of the controversy regarding proposed voluntary national history standards."

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