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REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY ACCOMPLISHMENTS FY-2006
I. ADVOCACY AND POLICY
FY 2006 funding levels, for the most part, are lower than what was proposed in FY 2007. For the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the agency will receive an operating budget of $325.535 million – some $12 million less than the $338 million that was requested by the president for FY 2007. In the NARA budget, there is one winner – the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The commission budget is slotted at $7.425 million -- $5.5 million for grants and $2 million for administrative costs; this represents a half million increase over what most insiders expected the House and Senate would have agreed to for the NHPRC in FY 2007. Another winner is the Department of Education’s “Teaching American History” initiative, which will see a funding level of $121 million – the amount appropriated to the program in FY 2006 and the same as proposed by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) in the Senate for FY 2007; this figure is some $71 million more than recommended by President Bush in his FY 2007 budget proposal. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is slotted to receive $140.949 million – about what was proposed for the agency in FY 2007 by President Bush; this will probably mean some moderate belt-tightening for the agency.
With the control of Congress now squarely in the hands of the Democrats, and with the fiscally conservative decision by the incoming Democratic appropriation chiefs, President Bush realized his overall budget recommendation for FY 2007 – that being “level funding” for most domestic agencies. Ironically, it took a change in control of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats to achieve the fiscally-conservative goal that the president all along sought for domestic agencies in FY 2007.
Testimony Submissions/Congressional and Agency Advocacy:
The membership of the House Humanities Caucus that was initiated in 2005 grew to more than sixty members; in 2006, due to the leadership of Representatives David Price (D-NC) and James Leach (R-IA), the caucus became a vehicle to build Congressional support for increasing the funding levels for the NEH and the NHPRC. Once again, during the National Humanities Alliance annual lobby day event, history coalition representatives played an important role in securing member "sign-ons" to the new caucus.
Formula Grant Initiatives:
Similarly, work continued on a second state-based formula grant program that two years ago was initiated by several history coalition member organizations to benefit the museum community. The history coalition is a founding member of the “Federal Formula Grant Coalition.” In these two advocacy efforts special recognition goes to NCH member organizations the Society of American Archivists, Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators and the American Association for State and Local History.
"Teaching American History" Initiative:
Following up on one of last year’s major advocacy accomplishments of seeing language inserted into the FY-2005 ED appropriation bill setting aside a portion of the TAH appropriation go to the support of "national programs" (approximately $3.6 million). In June, the history coalition and several member organizations representatives were part of a technical working group that participated in an ED-sponsored planning workshop designed to lay the foundation for one of the programs being funded out of this special set-aside – a national clearinghouse to support teaching American history. The clearinghouse will assist the field in promoting high-quality, content-rich professional development to teachers of American history.
Freedom of Information Authorizing Legislation and Public Access Declassification Board:
On the positive side, the Public Access Declassification Board (PIDB) – the board envisioned by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to provide oversight and public involvement in matters relating to government openness – became a reality and began meeting on a routine basis in 2006. NCH Executive Director Bruce Craig served as a panelist in the opening session of the PIDB and provided comments and suggestions to the board on its direction and potential future.
History Education Authorizing Legislation:
With the anticipated consideration of the “No Child Left Behind” reauthorization in 2007-08, NCH member organization the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) began assembling a working-group of interested parties to begin discussion focusing on constructive reform of the NCLB measure. NCH representatives have attended several of these meetings and will continue to do so in 2007.
Legislative and Policy Interventions on Behalf of the National Parks and Historic Sites:
In December 2005 the history coalition provided critical comments in a detailed 7-page assessment (which also served as a model letter for member organization comment submissions) of the draft rewrite of NPS Management Policies. In 2006, the NPS announced changes to the document, generally consistent with NCH and its member organization’s positions.
Staff continued to coordinate meetings between NCH member organizations and NPS officials in an effort to prod the bureau along to fill the NPS Chief Historian position vacancy that came open last year following the retirement of veteran Chief Historian, Dwight Pitcaithley. Late in 2006, shortly after the appointment of Mary Bomar as the new NPS Director, a vacancy announcement was posted on USA JOBS seeking qualified applicants from “all sources.” The NCH continues to monitor developments as the bureau moves forward in filling this critical agency position.
Other Legislative Initiatives:
In summary, the 109th Congress was not exactly stellar in terms of enacting legislation of interest to the history and archive communities. Congress did extend the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (P.L. 109-05), it established the Sand Creek Massacre site as a national park unit (P.L. 109-45), it authorized the creation of a statue of Rosa Parks for placement in the Capitol (P.L. 109-116), and it created a number of new National Heritage Areas (109-338). We can only hope that the 110th Congress will be more productive in enacting history/archives related measures.
II. HISTORY COALITION INITIATIVES AND ISSUES OF CONCERN ADDRESSED
Lost/Stolen/Missing Documents Initiative:
To date, though its contractor and principal investigator, the NCH has systematically monitored over sixty auction sites. Well over 40,000 documents have been surveyed and over 1,000 questionable documents have been referred to NARA for action. Of those, as of 1 October 2006, 938 document cases have been closed; 51 items remain under investigation; 12 previously unaccessioned documents have been retrieved and 7 stolen items have been returned to NARA. In addition to referring documents to NARA documentary items originating from state archives (i.e. New York, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia) as well as documents originating from several foreign countries (i.e. the Russian Federation, Bolivia, and Peru) were referred to appropriate officials for action.
National History Center and Congressional Breakfast Seminars:
Human Subjects Review and Oral History:
Presidential Records Executive Order and Presidential Library Issues:
Presidential libraries and records have long been an interest to the NCH. On 1 November 2001, President Bush issued Executive Order (EO) 13233 entitled, "Further Implementation of the Presidential Records Act." The order replaces President Reagan's Executive Order 12667 (issued 18 January 1989) and reinterprets aspects of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA). At that time several history coalition members filed suit in a federal court in Washington, D.C. seeking to overturn the Bush EO.
This year the legal battle over presidential records continued without court resolution. NCH continued working with agency and White House officials and the lawsuit plaintiffs to see the legal challenge to its conclusion. On 24 September 2005 federal Judge Kollar-Kotelly issued a second ruling (decided in the government’s favor) relating to the lawsuit. Yet to be addressed is the final and most important contested issue relating to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the PRA. To this end, Public Citizen Litigation Group filed briefs in October 2005; a decision on this last remaining (and most important) count of the plaintiffs original filing is still pending. In addition, through periodic meetings with White House and administration officials efforts are ongoing to see that especially offensive provisions are modified in a future amended reissue of the E.O.
This year the Reagan Presidential Library continued to release of certain presidential documents (exemption P-2, P-5 records) as did the George Bush Presidential Library. The history coalition monitored these releases with a particular eye toward library redactions and reported findings in the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE.
In 2005, the NCH Executive Director participated on a task force on presidential libraries that examined the museum/public outreach aspects of presidential libraries sponsored by the Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. The conference resulted in the issuance this year of a report entitled "Museums in Presidential Libraries: A First Report on Policies, Practices and Performance." This year, the Executive Director assisted in the review and pre-publication details of a special issue of The Public Historian (Summer 2006) devoted to the topic of presidential libraries. In addition, NCH Executive Director Bruce Craig’s article titled “Presidential Libraries and Museums: Opportunities for Genuine Reform” (an article in response to the special-issue publication) appeared in the fall issue of The Public Historian (Fall 2006). He also assisted the National Park Service on a steering committee in planning the bi-annual conference on presidential sites that took place in June 2006.
Throughout 2006 the NCH’s work relating to the designation of the Nixon Library and Birthplace as a presidential library continued. For several years, the Nixon Foundation has advanced plans for the private museum to become a full-fledged NARA presidential library. Consistent with the terms of an agreement between NARA and the Nixon Foundation, in 2006 the Nixon library was brought into the NARA presidential library system. However, the foundation’s effort to have the federal government pay for the construction of archival repository (an action that is contrary to the spirit if not letter of law as outlined in the Presidential Library Act) also continued, as did the NCH’s opposition to the foundation’s plan. Because of the failure of FY 2007 Treasury/Transportation federal appropriations bill to be enacted, it remains unclear whether the special appropriation discussed in the House report for that bill relating to the construction of the archival facility will materialize.
Finally, for the fourth year in a row, the history coalition submitted nominations for the Paul Peck Presidential Awards for "Service to the President" and "Portrayal of a President." After three years of submissions in 2006 our nominee - Arthur Schlesinger Jr. – was among the selected award winners. A number of NCH Policy Board members represented the history coalition at the gala award dinner.
The declassification event of the year was the discovery of a secret reclassification effort by NARA of documents previously open to the public that was exposed by independent researcher Matthew M. Aid. The history coalition played a key role in meetings with NARA and other government officials that resulted in the secret program being terminated. As a result of the publicity generated by this issue, the House of Representatives conducted a hearing on records declassification. NCH member organization The National Security Archive deserves special recognition for its aggressive pursuit of this issue throughout the year.
Proposed Closing of Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Reading Room:
Smithsonian’s Showtime Agreement:
III. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Conferences and Presentations:
Three presentations were made to introductory public history courses at the American University and at the George Washington University. The Executive Director taught a policy history course at American University and delivered the David E. Brandenburg Memorial Lecture titled, “The Future of History” during American University’s Phi Alpha Theta awards dinner.
Publications and Action Alerts:
The program that was launched three years ago in which NCH ACTION ALERTS were issued separate from the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE continued throughout 2006. This year a half dozen ALERTS sought to motivate readers of the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE to contact congressional representatives urging them to support programs that benefit history. Most of the alerts focused on the funding needs of the National Archives and Records Administration (including the NHPRC) and the NEH. Some NHPRC alerts were transmitted to targeted e-mail lists of AHA/OAH/SAA members who resided in the targeted states and Congressional districts.
NCH columns continue to reach a broad but targeted audience of historians (30,000), museum professionals (10,000), and archivists (4,000) 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 institutional supporter newsletters and online via the History News Network.
The Executive Director’s article titled “Presidential Libraries and Museums: Opportunities for Genuine Reform” appeared in the fall issue of The Public Historian (Fall 2006).
IV. ORGANIZATION BUILDING
Selection of New Executive Director:
Following the announcement a Search Committee chaired by Arnita Jones of the American Historical Association conducted a nationwide search for Craig’s successor. Other members of the committee (in alphabetical order) were: Nancy Beaumont (Society of American Archivists), Charlene Bickford (Association for Documentary Editors), Lee Formwalt (Organization of American Historians), James Gardner (National Council on Public History), Martha Kumar (American Political Science Association) and Brian Martin (History Associates). Lee White was selected as Executive Director. White, whose most recent position was that of Director of Government Relations for the National Society of Professional Engineers; he possesses a degree in law and a Masters degree in History from the George Mason University.
Grant and Other Special Funding: