Publication Date

October 1, 1997

Integrity of Foreign Relations Series Discussed at Confirmation Hearing of Assistant Secretary of State

On July 24 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the nomination of James Rubin for the position of assistant secretary of state for public affairs. This position is of special interest to historians because, among other responsibilities, the assistant secretary for public affairs oversees the Historical Office and the publication of the documentary history series, The Foreign Relations of the United States. Rubin, who had previously served on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was introduced by Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who extolled Rubin's abilities.

Senator Rod Grams (R-Minn.), who conducted the hearing in the absence of Chair Jesse Helms, asked Rubin specifically about the Foreign Relations series. Grams noted that recently passed legislation required that the Foreign Relations series constitute a "thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions," and referred to recent reviews of the early 1960s volume on Congo that had indicated that the volume was distorted due to the failure to include intelligence material. He then asked Rubin what action he would take to insure the integrity of the series. Rubin replied that he had been briefed on this situation by the Historical Office and that the slow pace of declassification was frustrating to him and to many others. Rubin then described an interagency task force that the State Department has created to try to get as much material declassified as fast as possible. Rubin said he is "absolutely" committed to working for the integrity of the Foreign Relations series.

Charles Blitzer Announces Retirement from the Wilson Center

On July 24 Charles Blitzer, who has been director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars since 1988, announced his intention to retire. During the past several months, Representative Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chair of the House appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Wilson Center's budget, has been very critical of Blitzer's leadership. As already reported, the House appropriations bill calls for only $1 million next year for the Wilson Center while the Senate appropriated $5.8 million, its current level of funding.

Joseph Flom, chairman of the Wilson Center's Board of Trustees, accepted Blitzer's announcement with regret and noted that Blitzer's contributions have been central to the life of the center. Flom, who said that he intends to appoint a search committee and initiate' the search process as soon as possible, asked Blitzer to remain until his successor is chosen and takes office, which Blitzer agreed to do. Blitzer said that he had been pondering for some months the question of the appropriate time for his retirement. His decision, he said, was based on several considerations, including the fact that he will be 70 in a few weeks and his belief that there is need for an infusion of new vigor at the center.

State Department Advisory Committee Identifies Barriers to Opening the Historical Record

On July 28 Warren Kimball, chair of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, submitted to Secretary Madeleine Albright and to House and Senate committees the advisory committee's annual report. The report states that the committee is "unconvinced by arguments from some agencies that secrecy for 30-year old information takes precedence over the value for the democracy of openness." The primary causes for the delays in publishing volumes 30 years after the events, the committee asserted, "must be laid at the doorstep of the intelligence community, primarily the Central Intelligence Agency."

The report makes clear that the committee does not advocate revealing secrets that would jeopardize national security or the safety of individuals; however, the report states that the CIA has failed to declassify documents pertaining to activities that have been revealed in congressional hearings and in memoirs by CIA agents.

This fall the committee will consider the possibility of withholding from publication some compiled volumes that do not include relevant intelligence involvement and would thus "fall grossly short of a complete record." Although the committee acknowledges that efforts are underway to develop a better working relationship with the CIA, the committee remains skeptical as to whether new procedures will improve the situation.

Fiscal 1998 Appropriations for the National Archives and NHPRC

On July 22 the Senate passed a Treasury Appropriations Bill, which includes the budgets of the National Archives and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The Senate has allocated $5 million for the NHPRC grants pro gram; this is a 25 percent increase above the president's request of $4 million. The NHPRC's grants program is currently funded at $5 million. The bill includes $207.94 million for the fiscal 1998 operating budget for the National Archives. The operating budget of the archives is currently $196.96 million and the president had recommended $206.47 million. In a separate line item, the bill designates $10.65 million for the repairs and alterations of the National Archives buildings, which include the presidential libraries. This was an increase over the president's request of $6.65 million.

The House has not yet voted on the Treasury Appropriations Bill. However the recommendation of the House Appropriations Committee is for $5.5 million for the grants program of NHPRC, $10.65 million for the repairs and alterations of the National Archives buildings, and $202.35 million for the operational budget for the National Archives.

Senate Committee Endorses Reauthorization Legislation for the Endowment by a Large Margin

On July 23, by a 14-4 vote, the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee approved S. 1020, a bill to reauthorize for five years the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The four members voting against the bill were Senators Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark). S. 1020 is very similar to a bill passed by this committee in the last Congress. The bill provides for NEH funding to be divided among three basic programs with 30 percent going to state programs, 35 percent to national research and preservation programs, and 35 percent for public and education programs. There is an authorization level of $175 million for the NEH.

Several amendments to the chair's bill were introduced during the markup, which determines the final version of the bill prior to its being introduced on the Senate floor. The most controversial amendment was one introduced by Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) which dealt only with the NEA. Gregg's amendment called for 60 percent of the NEA's appropriation, instead of the 40 percent specified in the bill, to be designated for state arts programs. Senators Gregg and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) engaged in a rather lengthy exchange over this amendment. Gregg stressed that there is greater value for the dollar if the grants go directly to states, and Kennedy emphasized the ways in which large national grants benefit many participants from across the country and reach many states. In a 9-9 vote, this amendment failed, with Senator Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), chair of the committee, being the only Republican voting against the amendment.

Senator John Warner (R-Va.) introduced an amendment to change the appropriations levels language for the NEA from $175 million to $105 million in 1998 and "such sums as are needed" for the other four years. This amendment passed in a voice vote. Also passing by a voice vote was another Warner amendment which called for a 12 percent cap, instead of the 14 percent cap in the bill, for administrative expenses for both the NEH and the NEA. The amendment provided a year's adjustment period to reach the 12 percent level. The NEA's administrative expenses are currently about 17 percent and the NEH's are now at 14 percent. Warner made clear that he was a big supporter of the endowments and that his intention with these amendments was to position the bill for a more realistic chance of passage when it reaches the Senate floor.

Senator Hutchinson said that when the bill comes to the floor for a vote, he intends to introduce an amendment to provide arts funding through block grants to the states. In a lively exchange about the merits of state and national programs, there was a discussion about the fact that some state arts councils have administrative costs of well over 25 percent and that the average is 21 percent, compared to 17 percent administrative costs of the NEA.

National Archives Seeks Comments on Criteria for Measuring Its Performance

As a part of compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), all federal agencies are to complete a strategic plan with performance indicators that measure how well an agency is achieving its mission. Agencies must seek public comment on the goals and indicators in their plans and submit these plans to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress before October 1.

The National Archives' performance indicators are included in part four of its strategic plan, titled "How Will We Measure Our Success?" The performance indicators follow from three primary mission goals: essential evidence is created, identified, appropriately scheduled, and managed for as long as needed; essential evidence is easy to access regardless of where it is or where users are for as long as needed; and NARA staff continuously expands its capability to make the changes necessary to realize our vision. To measure performance in these three areas, the archives lists 20 key performance indicators. These include increasing the percentage: (1) of federal records inventoried and scheduled within two years of creation; (2) of highly satisfied users of NARA records and services; (3) of formerly classified records made available in a timely manner; (4) of NARA records holdings described in an online catalog; and (5) of at-risk materials appropriately treated before any physical deterioration occurs. In addition, the employee performance management system is linked to strategic outcomes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.