NCC News

NCC Advocacy Update, December 1993

Page Putnam Miller, December 1993

Update on FY'94 Appropriations

Congress did not meet its October 1 deadline for passage of the FY'94 appropriations bills. As we go to press at the beginning of November, two of the thirteen appropriations bills, Interior and Defense, have not yet been passed. On October 26 the Congress passed the Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government appropriations bill, which includes the budget of the National Archives. This bill, which was signed into law by the President on October 28, specifies $195.482 million for the National Archives, with $5.25 million earmarked for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The FY'93 budget for the National Archives was $165 million, and thus the $30 million increase appears to be a major gain. But in fact it is not. The FY'94 budget is the first one in which the National Archives will be making an annual $29 million payment on the loan to construct Archives II, the new research facility in College Park, Maryland. Thus, the additional funding will go almost entirely for the loan on the new building. There will be little additional money for reference staff, additional preservation equipment, and the establishment of a comprehensive new computerized system that will include management and finding-aid capabilities. The good news in the budget is that there is a slight increase for NHPRC. The President requested and the House had originally passed an FY'94 bill with only $4 million for NHPRC, which would have been a 25 percent cut. However, NHPRC ended up with $5.25 million, a slight increase.

Although the conference report on the Interior appropriations bill has not yet passed, the House and Senate have accepted the administration's request of $177.491 million for the FY'94 budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This amount includes a very small increase, less than $100,000, over the FY'93 NEH budget. There is an 8 percent increase in the FY'94 budget for the Historic Preservation Fund. The House and Senate accepted the administration's request of $40 million, which includes $31 million for state historic preservation programs, $2 million for the preservation programs of Native American tribes, and $7 million for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The FY'94 budget for the United States Information Agency (USIA) includes funding for the establishment of an American Studies Collections Program. This program would provide funds for the initial purchase of a core collection of scholarly monographs and journals in American history and related fields for sixty-five foreign universities with American studies programs. There will also be annual augmentation of six hundred books and fifteen journal subscriptions per year for five years thereafter. The FY'94 funding would provide money to begin the project.

Reauthorization of the National Endowment for the Humanities

On October 14 the House passed a two-year reauthorization for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Institute for Museum Services (IMS). This legislation basically keeps in place the 1990 reauthorization legislation that expires this year. The extension of this legislation for two years would give the new agency heads appointed by the Clinton administration a chance to evaluate needed changes and make recommendations before undertaking a more substantive consideration of reauthorization legislation. Prior to passage of the legislation in the House, there were a number of unfriendly amendments proposed that would have reduced funding levels and restricted programs. None of the unfriendly amendments passed, however. The NEH, NEA, and IMS two-year reauthorization bill is now pending in the Senate.

Reauthorization of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission's Grants Program

The reauthorization of NHPRC is moving through the legislative process, but unresolved differences still exist between the House and Senate bills. The House has passed a bill that would authorize NHPRC to receive "such sums as may be necessary" in annual appropriations for five more years, beginning in fiscal year 1994. The Senate is now considering a bill that would authorize NHPRC for four years at a ceiling of $6 million for FY'94, $8 million for FY'95, and $10 million for FY'96 and FY'97. Although NHPRC was authorized in FY'93 at a ceiling of $10 million, the actual appropriation for last year was only $5 million.

Senator Pell Makes Statement on Failure of State Department to Declassify Documents Over Thirty Years Old

Two years after the passage in 1991 of legislation dealing with the State Department's Foreign Relations Series and its declassification policies, Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) placed in the Congressional Record a statement reviewing the implementation of this law. (Congressional Record, October 27, 1993, p. S14524.) Pell noted the progress that had been made in publishing the foreign relations history volumes within thirty years of the events that they document, and the progress in establishing the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation. However, he stated that progress has been less impressive in implementing the section of the law dealing with the declassification of State Department records. The law gave the State Department one year with an extended grace period of two years to comply with the requirement that records, with exceptions for very sensitive information, be declassified not later than thirty years after the documents were prepared. The law further stated that the declassified records of permanent historical value shall be transferred to the National Archives and made available for public inspection. In reviewing the State Department's compliance with these provisions, Pell observed that very little was done on declassification during the first year after the law was enacted, and that just three months before the end of the second year, the State Department issued an action plan that will not achieve full compliance until December 31, 1997. Pell concluded by stating: "I hope renewed attention will be given to the need to move forward on the declassification and release of State Department records in compliance with the thirty-year schedule set forth in the law."

Clinton Administration Signals Major Shift in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Clinton administration has signaled a major shift on FOIA policy. On October 4 the Justice Department issued new guidance on agency implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The guidance takes some very positive steps toward increased openness and rescinds the restrictive policies of the Reagan-Bush era. Attorney General Janet Reno sent a memorandum to the heads of all federal departments and agencies stating: "The department will no longer defend an agency's withholding information merely because there is a 'substantial legal basis' for doing so. Rather, in determining whether or not to defend a nondisclosure decision, we will apply a presumption of disclosure." In repealing the 1981 guidelines for agency implementation of the FOIA, Reno stressed that FOIA exemptions should be used "only in those cases where the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would be harmful to an interest protested by that exemption."

The Justice Department FOIA directive to the agencies was accompanied by a memorandum from President Bill Clinton, who urged increased openness and encouraged agencies to handle requests for information in a customer-friendly manner. "The existence of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles," Clinton wrote, "has no place in its implementation."