Publication Date

September 1, 1996

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AHA Petitions IRS to Comply with the Federal Records Act

On July 18, Tax Analysts, publisher of Tax Notes and sponsor of the Tax History Project, was joined by the AHA and the Organization of American Historians in petitioning IRS commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson. The petition requests that she “take the steps necessary to comply with the obligations imposed on you and the IRS by the Federal Records Act, and the regulations of the National Archives and Records Administration.” The petition details five specific requests and asks for a response within 30 days.

National Archives Releases Strategic Plan

On July 2, U. S. archivist John Carlin released "Ready Access to Essential Evidence: The Strategic Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1997-2007." The National Archives Leadership Team worked for a year on the strategic plan, a 14-page document that addresses three questions: What is our situation now, what do we want to achieve, and what must we do to get there?

The initial reaction to the plan from the user community is that it has identified some significant areas that need attention. However, many have also expressed disappointment at the vague language, lack of details, and absence of a timetable for achieving specified goals. Some have also raised questions about whether the National Archives has the statutory authority for some of the proposed initiatives. Since this strategic plan calls for what appears to be some major new policy initiatives, leaders of the major historical and archival organizations have asked Carlin to form a users' advisory committee to serve as a forum for continued in-depth consultation on new directions for the National Archives.

Update on NEH Appropriations

The House. On June 20 the House considered the fiscal 1997 appropriation for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The starting point for the debate was the recommendation of the House Appropriations Committee, which called for $104.5 million in fiscal 1997 for the NEH, which is currently funded at $110 million. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) Introduced an amendment to cut the funding of the NEH by $12.9 million. Shadegg stressed that his cut was in keeping with the commitment that the House made last year to phase out the NEH in three years. Rep. Sidney Yates (R-Ill.) took strong exception to Shadegg’s mention of the phaseout for the NEH. Yates stated that he had carefully researched the agreement made last year and the language regarding the phaseout referred only to the arts endowment. The Shadegg amendment to reduce funding for the NEH failed in a roll-call vote, with 254 nay votes to 168 ayes.

The Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee met on July 16 and accepted the Senate Interior Subcommittee’s recommendation of $99.5 million in fiscal 1997 for the NEH, a cut of about 10 percent from the fiscal 1996 budget. Prior to the Senate Appropriations Committee markup, several senators seemed prepared to introduce amendments to raise the funding for the NEB. But there was uncertainty as to how much of an increase would be sought$ 115 million, the amount the Senate Interior Subcommittee had recommended last year; the fiscal 1996 level of $110 million; or $104.5 million, the amount passed recently by the House. There was also uncertainty as to what reductions would be identified from other parts of the bill to offset the increase for the NEH. The committee procedures require that amendments for increases be accompanied by counterbalancing proposals for decreases.

Budget Update for National Archives and NHPRC

The House. On July 18, the House passed the Treasury Appropriations Bill, which includes the budgets for the National Archives and the grants program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The House bill calls for an operating budget for the National Archives of $195.1 million, which is $1.8 million less than the president’s request. In a special line item that provides for repairs and restorations of National Archives facilities and presidential libraries, the House bill includes $9.5 million, with most of this earmarked for use at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. The House bill also includes $4 million in fiscal 1997 for the grants program of the NHPRC. This represents a 20 percent cut for the NHPRC but is consistent with the president’s request. The House report accompanying this legislation pointed out that the archives had not obligated the $4.5 million made available last year for expansion of Internet applications because it does not yet have an information resource management plan or data standards. Thus the House rescinded this “no-year money.”

The Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee met on July 23 and recommended an operating budget of $198.9 million for the National Archives, which is almost $4 million above the House figure. The committee also recommended $18.2 million for the separate line item for buildings renovation and repairs and $5 million for NHPRC grants, an increase of $1 million over the House figure. In addition, the Senate voted to restore the $4.5 million internet money that had been rescinded by .the House. Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Nebr.) was responsible for the amendment last year that added the $4.5 million for the National Archives to expand its use of the Internet to facilitate electronic access to National Archives records.

Placement of American Folklife Center Debated

The House. On May 23, the House Oversight Committee unanimously approved H.R. 3491, a bill advocated by James Billington, the librarian of Congress, that would repeal the American Folklife Preservation Act and authorize the Library of Congress to continue the functions of the center as a special division of the library, dismantling its independent status and reducing its funding. However, on June 26 when the House Appropriations Committee considered the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, which includes funding for the Library of Congress and the American Folklife Center, the committee endorsed an amendment to the report accompanying this bill. The amendment calls for the librarian to develop a plan to transfer the library’s American Folklife Center (including the board, budget, staff, and collections) to the Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Senate. When consideration of the Folklife Center’s budget came before the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee voted for the same funding in fiscal 1997 as in fiscal 1996. Furthermore, the Senate committee stated that it does not agree with the House proposal to transfer the Folklife Center to the Smithsonian. However, the Senate committee affirmed that if sufficient support for the Folklife Center is not forthcoming from the Library of Congress, it would support the transfer.

House Reduces Funding for Declassification

In May the House passed H.R. 53259, "The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 1997," which reduced by 50 percent the authorized funding for all intelligence agency declassification programs. This means that a dozen intelligence agencies will have to divide $12.5 million among themselves in carrying out the provisions for declassification required in the president's 1995 Executive Order on Declassification, E.O. 12958. The current level for intelligence agency declassification programs is $25 million, and the intelligence agencies had requested an increase in funding

The House Report 104-578, part one, which accompanied this bill, was critical of the declassification provisions of the executive order. However, it was also critical of the Central Intelligence Agency's declassification program. The report noted that the money designated for declassification for this year has all been spent on setting up a bureaucratic infrastructure.

Ruling on Release of Archives Correspondence Appealed

On July 24, the government appealed the May 24 ruling of Judge Charles R. Richey of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Public Citizen v. U.S Department of Justice and the National Archives and Records Administration, case number 95-02095-CRR. Judge Richey ruled in favor of Public Citizen and rejected the government’s efforts to withhold correspondence with former presidents Reagan’s and Bush’s attorneys concerning the fate of their electronic records.

In this case Public Citizen requested through the Freedom of Information Act access to correspondence pertaining to a January 20, 1993, memorandum of agreement between the National Archives and Bush concerning the possession, custody, control and ownership of electronic records created by the Executive Office of the President. The government waited until the last possible date to appeal the decision. It may be a year before the appeals court sets the date for the oral arguments in this case.

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