NCH Accomplishments FY-2003

(January 2004)

2003 was a banner year for the history and archive communities. Though the federal budget for FY 2003 was enacted by Congress four months late and generally reflected across-the-board cuts for most domestic federal agencies, history and archives related programs fared well. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) “We the People” (WTP) initiative was launched, and the Department of Education “Teaching American History” (TAH) initiative was funded yet again at $100 million. The enactment of the FY 2004 budget witnessed even larger increases: $10 million for the “We the People” initiative, $120 million for TAH, with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), for the first time in its history, topping out at the full-authorization level of $10 million!

In addition to legislative victories in the arena of federal appropriations, several other National Coalition for History goals outlined in the annual work plan were attained in 2003: a Department of Homeland Security History office was authorized, oral history was exempted from Institutional Review Board (IRB) review procedures in new guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, a Congressional Directory was published, and a student intern program was launched. Advances continue to be made toward the strategic objective of “paperless communication” with member organizations and the NCH web page was updated.



When the year began, there was considerable concern whether the president and congress would drastically reduce or eliminate non-defense/non-homeland security programs. NCH Action Alerts motivated readers of the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE to contact congressional representatives urging them to support programs that benefit history including the “Teaching American History” initiative, the National Archives and Records Administration (including the NHPRC) and the NEH. In the end, programs of interest to our communities did not take cuts. Programs such as the NEH realized a $6.8 million budget increase, marking the largest percentage budget increase for NEH since 1979 (largest actual dollar increase since 1991).

In passing the FY 2004 federal budget, the NCH played a critical role in two important funding initiatives. First our coalition successfully thwarted efforts by some members of Congress to reallocate the “We the People” (WTP) initiative in order to fund Senator Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) proposed American History and Civics Act of 2003 (S. 504). The senator's legislation, though designed to improve the teaching of American history in secondary schools fell short in programmatic objectives. The humanities communities did not want to see the Alexander bill funded at the expense of the WTP program. Working in partnership with other members of the humanities community, we were successful in fending off the attempt to divert the NEH program funds.

Of even more importance was the history coalition's successful advocacy efforts to raise the funding level for the NHPRC to $10 million. While the NCH has long supported funding for the NHPRC at this level, in the past our efforts fell significantly short of this goal. With the creation of the Department of Homeland Defense and the shifting of budgetary oversight responsibilities to new Congressional conferees by Congress, there was a unique opportunity to convince appropriators of the importance of NARA programs.

In October, the NCH coordinated a series of meetings between representatives of prominent history, archives, and library organizations and key members of congressional staff to advocate restoration of funding for the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) initiative (the Senate had zeroed out the ERA entirely) and for full-funding for the NHPRC. Over a dozen NCH member groups responded to a NCH call to action and sent representatives to Washington D.C. The history coalition arranged meetings with over two-dozen key staff and members of Congress and our efforts paid off! In the end, House managers and Senate conferees of the Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriations subcommittee submitted a report recommending restoration of funding for the ERA ($35.9 million) and full funding ($10 million) for the NHPRC. This reflects an $8.4 million increase in NARA 's general operating budget over the FY 2003 enacted level.

Through its partnerships with various humanities and preservation organizations, the NCH also continued its long-term support of National Park Service historic preservation programs (including the Historic Preservation Fund, “Save America Treasures” program), for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In addition, in part because of our special relationship with Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) funding for the Department of Education "Teaching American History" grant initiative for FY 2004 exceeded that of the president by $10 million. Since the start of Senator Byrd history initiative, Congress has appropriated almost a quarter-billion dollars to improving the teaching of American history at elementary and secondary schools.


Homeland Security History Office Authorized

For some number of years, the NCH in partnership with several of the member organizations including the Society for History in the Federal Government has worked to create a precedent that would authorize a federal history office in public law. This year our efforts finally paid off! In October, President Bush signed legislation (P.L.108-90), the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2004 ( H.R.2555) that includes language authorizing the establishment of an Office of History (HO) for the recently created Department of Homeland Security. At the suggestion of the National Coalition for History, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) spearheaded the effort to add language authorizing the HO into the Senate committee report (S. Rept. 08-86). Due primarily to the leadership of Senator Byrd the HO is now a reality.

IRB Determination and Oral History

For several years, the NCH in conjunction with the American Historical Association and the Oral History Association have been striving to see oral history exempted from Institutional Review Board (IRB) review procedures. In October 2003, the Department of Health and Human Services OHRP issued a finding that "oral history interviewing not involve research" as defined by HHS regulations and "do not need to be reviewed by an institutional review Board."

Florida Ballots

Ever since the election of 2000, the history coalition has played the leading role in advocating for the preservation of the contested Florida ballots and related election records of historical significance relating to the contested 2000 presidential election. For over two years, the NCH was the lead advocate for their preservation. To that end, through newspaper Op-eds, interviews with media and press reporters, the NCH brought national attention to the issue. We also worked with Florida state archivists and other concerned historians nationwide who also wished to see the Florida ballots and the related election records properly preserved in perpetuity. On 8 May 2003 , Glenda Hood, the Florida Secretary of State, announced that she had instructed all 67 Florida counties to forward more than six million ballots from the 2000 election to the State Archives for long-term preservation.

Declassification and the Moynihan Board

The NCH continues not only to monitor but to actively address declassification issues. Due to the continued interest of the NCH, at long last, Congress and the White House are considering making the initial appointments to the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB). The so-called Moynihan Board was authorized several years ago but has never been implemented. The NCH and representatives of several other organizations have been meeting with Congressional and administration officials urging them to move forward with the appointments.

Declassification and Executive Order 12958

In March, President Bush issued Executive Order (EO) 13292 an EO that replaces Executive Order 12958 governing national security declassification in federal agencies. Declassification advocates had feared that the Bush administration would gut the provisions of the EO that over its life has resulted in over 50 million pages of government documents being opened up to researchers by federal agencies. NCH representatives met with NARA officials to express its organizational concerns. Though no public hearings were held on this issue, the NCH played a significant role in calling organizational and public attention to a draft of the order. We urged officials to consider the comments and concerns of interested parties including several NCH member organizations. We also made several congressional contacts with respect to the contents of the EO. When the new EO was issued, most declassification analysts concluded that while the Bush EO fell short when compared to the Clinton version, the most important elements of the Clinton era EO were preserved including the all important principle of automatic declassification.

Efforts to Overturn PRA Executive Order

Since President Bush issued Executive Order (EO) 13233, the NCH in partnership with several other organizations has continued efforts to overturn the EO. Both the judicial and legislative efforts initiated by the NCH to overturn President Bush's Executive Order 13233 are ongoing. The lawsuit brought by historians and others is still pending in federal court. On the Congressional front, however, a bi-partisan effort to rescind the EO with H.R. 1493 was continued in 2003 in the House by Rep. Doug Ose who introduced legislation (H.R. 1493) nullifying the EO. In the Senate, a similar bill (S. 1517) was introduced by Senators Bingaman (D-NM) and Graham (D-FL).

Legal Suits and Amicus Briefs

This year the NCH played a role in several notable legal cases. While the positions of the archive and history communities were generally not embraced by the courts, the outcome of the landmark Lawrence case re-emphasized the importance of historians continuing to provide amicus briefs when our communities have something to contribute.

First, on 15 January 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Eldred v. Ashcroft copyright case for which the NCH in conjunction with other historical and archival groups had assisted by filing of several amicus briefs on behalf of historical and archival professions. The Court considered the arguments of our communities but nevertheless issued a 7-to-2 ruling upholding the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. We had sought to stop the 20 year extension to existing copyright protection.

Second, in June, the NCH along with several other groups including the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, filed an amicus brief in the case Schrecker v. U.S. Department of Justice examining the limitations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The brief supported history professor Ellen Schrecker, of Yeshiva University and her argument that the Department of Justice improperly withheld information regarding individuals investigated by the FBI during the McCarthy era. In November 2003 the Court found in favor of the government.

Third, although the NCH was not a party to the case of Lawrence v. Texas case in which the Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of a Texas anti-sodomy law, the NCH monitored, gave support, and reported on the efforts of a group of historians who filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. In June, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs deeming the Texas law unconstitutional. Reflecting the intellectual influence of the historians' brief, the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, focused heavily on the historians analysis of the history of sodomy and sodomy laws and the societal presumptions and legal reasoning behind a 1986 decision where the Court had endorsed Georgia 's anti-sodomy law.

Statement on Iraq Heritage

While the NCH largely confines its activities to history and archival issues of a domestic nature, this year the NCH also focused on a handful of international history-related issues. Following the American and coalition force invasion of Iraq, in April, the NCH became one of the first heritage organizations to publish a statement condemning the looting and destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and calling on the support of the U.S. government and its allies as well as the historical and archival communities in preventing further destruction of Iraqi archives, libraries, museums and sites of historic or archeological significance. The statement served as a model for several other organizational declarations. The NCH continues to monitor developments in Iraq and efforts to preserve Iraqi cultural resources.

Artifact and Document Repatriation

This year the NCH began to focus on the growing problem of document theft and the illegal marketing of historical documents. The NCH arranged a meeting between new NCH institutional supporter organization The Manuscript Society and representatives of other autograph/manuscript dealer/collector organizations and NARA to discuss replevin policy. The meeting focused on how to enlist the assistance of the collector/dealer community in encouraging the donation of alienated federal records from House and Senate custody and to encourage the loan of federal documents to the proposed Capitol Visit Center .

The NCH also worked in cooperation with Department of Justice officials in repatriating artifacts illegally obtained from the Custer Battlefield (a violation of federal ARPA laws). The coalition also worked with NARA officials in achieving the successful repatriation of a document signed by President Roosevelt that had been stolen from the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidential library

African Presidential Papers

In conjunction with interested parties in the archival community, the NCH helped address archivist concerns about the possible illegal removal of African presidential papers to a research center at Boston University .




Throughout the year the NCH continued to provides its supporters with the weekly NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE. Currently, direct subscriptions to the UPDATE total over 1,200 readers with distribution via H-net to a potential audience of 60,000.

On several occasions the UPDATE was first to report stories of interest to the profession. It continues to provide readers with accurate and cutting-edge information on legislation, programs, controversies as well as other items of interest. UPDATE stories were redistributed online via George Mason History News Network, OMB Watch Federal


Information Policy newsletter, APSANET (the American Political Science Association online newsletter), the National Park Service CRM internal news posting, and by what is covertly described as an undisclosed-recipient list within the Smithsonian Institution

Action Alerts

This year, a new program of issuing Action Alerts separate from the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE was launched. Alerts focus not only on federal issues of concern to the history and archival community, but on several issues of statewide concern. These were transmitted to targeted e-mail lists of AHA/OAH members who resided in the affected states. The response by member organizations and subscribers to the NCH updates and alerts is at the heart of the NCH advocacy effectiveness.

NCH Columns

NCH columns continue to reach a targeted audience of historians and archivists through the newsletters of professional organizations. These include the American Historical Association Perspectives , the Organization of American Historians OAH Newsletter , the Society of American Archivists Archival Outlook , the National Council on Public History Public History News , and the American Association for State and Local History AASLH Dispatch . Articles and news briefs were also reprinted in dozens of institutional supporter newsletters and online via the History News Network .

New Partnering Efforts

This year the NCH entered into a partnership arrangement with"Americans for National Parks." This coalition of several hundred organizations, is sponsored by the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) and seeks to advance the budgetary needs of the National Park Service and System.

The NCH continues to make progress toward the implementation of a new program "Issuing History" -- a seminar series targeted to members of Congress and their staff. To this end, a grant proposal was drafted and submitted to the Wilson Center for its consideration. This next year the NCH anticipates expanding the programmatic partnership to include the National History Center .

Executive Director Presentations and Publications

In 2003, NCH Director Bruce Craig delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting of the Society for History in the Federal Government entitled "Government Secrecy -- Just How Far Will They Go?" During the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians he appeared on WGN radio on a program entitled "The Craft of the Historian." He also made presentations at the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians and National Council on Public History, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the American Council of Learned Societies annual meetings. Craig also chaired a panel during the joint AHA/NCSS/OAH "Innovations in Collaboration" conference. He also served as a panelist on Cold War International History Project's panel on the book Sacred Secrets .

Craig's op-ed, "A National Park Sellout: Alcatraz Gimmick a Shameful Selling of History" appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. His op-ed for National Parks magazine (January 2004) "Parks for Sale " and a book review of the McCarthy Executive Session release to appear in an upcoming issue of The Public Historian are both in production. On his own time he also taught a Policy History course at The American University. Articles to appear in print this year include "Executive Order 13233: We Dare Not Allow Ourselves to be Bush-Wacked (RBM: Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Cultural Heritage ).



NCH Board Listserv

Consistent with the annual work plan, this year the NCH moved closer to its goal of "paperless communications" with member organizations. This year a Board listserve was established through the auspices of the Organization of American Historians.

Web Page Revisions

The NCH Webpage was updated and revised to include current membership roster, issue papers and postings of interest to members.

Congressional Directory

The NCH, in partnership with the National Humanities Alliance published its first Congressional Directory (108th Congress). Approximately 200 copies were distributed to activists, member organizations, and other partner organizations.

Intern Program

An intern program was launched this year with three student interns assisting the director in the totality of the NCH operations.