Blogs > Cliopatria > NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 12, #28; 23 JUNE 2006)

Jun 23, 2006 3:42 pm

NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 12, #28; 23 JUNE 2006)

5. BITS AND BYTES: History Coalition Weighs in on Net Neutrality; PIDB Member Named
6. ARTICLES OF INTEREST:"American Express Announces $10 Million Commitment for Historic Preservation” (PR Newswire)

1. HOUSE CUTS NARA FUNDING BY $8 MILLION In a surprise move on the floor of the House of Representatives, on 14 June 2006, the lower chamber cut the proposed budget for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) by $8 million. A higher level budget had been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, and the District of Columbia. If the Senate agrees with the House the net result would signal (to quote a “dismayed” Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein) “a very austere year” in FY 2007 for NARA – one that would mean a reduction of hours of operations, partial closings of researcher reading rooms on nights and weekends, and even possible furloughing of employees.

The cut took National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) legislative staff and the House Appropriations Members and staff by surprise; there was no advance notice of the proposed amendment. The amendment, sponsored by Representatives Darlene Hooley (D-OR) and joined by Kenny C. Hulshof (R-MO) and Ike Skelton (D-MO) sought to restore funding (including $8 million from the NARA budget) for a drug interdiction initiative that had been zeroed out of the federal budget. The initiative seeks to help curb the extensive abuse of crystal methamphetamine.

The congresswoman recommended taking the money from NARA’s budget as she needed to find an “offset” (when Congress adds money to a bill, an “offset” must be found and the budget for that program reduced by an equal amount) in order to fund the interdiction program.

While the funding plight of the interdiction program was recognized by Congressman Knollenberg (R-MI), Chairman of the Transportation/Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee, he vigorously opposed funding proposal at the expense of NARA’s budget. The chairman told his colleagues that the National Archives was already struggling to fund a $12 million shortfall, and that the agency is considering other measures to save money in addition to the hiring freeze (see related story below). During the first vote the amendment was defeated, but Rep. Hooley demanded a roll call vote; the final vote on the amendment was 348 yeas to 76 nays, with 8 members not voting. As a result, NARA’s proposed funding shortfall in FY 2007 is now over $20 million.

In conversations between the National Coalition for History and Senate appropriations staff and others on Capitol Hill, most insiders believe the Senate will not agree to the proposed offset and that the $8 million will be restored by the Senate in conference when the bill is reconsidered by representatives of both houses.

Insiders also report that when the Senate takes up the NARA funding bill (probably after the July 4 recess) the Senate is likely to agree with the House on the need to provide some level of funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). While the president proposed zero funds for the NHPRC, the House approved funding at
$7.5 million ($5.5 for grants; $2 million for administration and staffing). The Senate is expected to provide funding for the NHPRC at a level consistent with the House.

Constituents of Representatives Hooley, Hulshof, and Skelton may wish to contact their member (write, e-mail, or call -- the capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121 and express their views on the amendment that was offered and let them know about the devastating impact it conceivably would have on NARA’s ability to serve the public.

2. NARA IN FISCAL TROUBLE – HIRING FREEZE AND OTHER MEASURES PLANNED The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) plans on instituting a hiring freeze and other steps – including an early retirement buy-out program for qualified employees – in order to minimized an anticipated budget shortfall for this and next year.

While Congressionally-mandated pay raises, higher facility rents, and increases in energy costs in facilities nationwide account for some of the projected funding shortfall, the fact is that personnel costs make up the largest part of NARA’s operational expenses. According to NARA officials “these costs must be reduced.” Consequently, a hiring freeze is set to begin 3 July. It will effect only those positions funded by the agency’s core operational funds and will not effect positions funded from NARA’s Revolving Fund, Trust Fund, through the ERA appropriation, or through most reimbursable programs.

In addition to instituting the hiring freeze, NARA anticipates taking additional action to reduce the budget: there will be opportunities for employees to take an early retirement, and a reduction of hours of operation for both the research and exhibition sides of NARA – that move is anticipated to hit the genealogical community and other researchers, as well as the visiting public especially hard.

3. BILLS INTRODUCED: REPRESENTATIVE DEGETTE INTRODUCES HUMAN SUBJECT RESEARCH LEGISLATION On 9 June 2006, Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced the “Protection for Participants in Research Act of 2006" (H.R. 5578) – legislation seeking to insure that all human subject research is conducted in accordance with the Common Rule and other provisions in law that are designed to insure that human subject research poses minimal risk to research participants. The bill also seeks to insure “informed consent” by all research participants.

Human subject research – including certain oral history research activities – has been interpreted by some federal officials in the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) and some university Institutional Review Boards
(IRBs) to be governed by provisions in the Public Health Service Act. The law, which originally was designed to protect the human subjects from abuse by bio-medical researchers, remains vague if not totally mute with respect to oral history research. This, however, has not stopped some university IRB’s to (in the words of critics) “overreach” their authority when applying OHRP regulations to oral history research. Some university IRB’s grant an exemption to oral history research while others (especially those that do not have historians or social scientists sitting on the IRB) demand that historians seek IRB approval for any oral history research that may be undertaken in the process of conducting historical research.

In recent months there have been several new IRB horror stories relating to oral history. For example, at one major research university a doctoral dissertation that had been approved by the Dean of the Graduate School, was withdrawn just weeks prior to the student’s anticipated graduation. In what appears to have been a communication problem between the student’s graduate advisor, the graduate school, and the university IRB, the doctoral candidate was ordered to take back his dissertation, strike all references to his oral history interviewees and destroy the tapes he made, even though he had secured signed releases from all his oral history interviewees. The student’s graduation and future – including a job offer (his position is conditioned on having the Ph.D. in hand prior to appointment) – at this writing remains in jeopardy.

DeGette’s bill does not speak directly to the issue of oral history research and would do little to address the specific concerns relating to such research activities. There is a provision in the bill that directs the Health and Human Service’s Secretary to consider whether the list of exemptions should be modified or whether “new categories of exemptions [should be] established.” The bill also mandates that local IRBs are to consist of at least two persons whose expertise is in “nonscientific areas” and an additional two persons from outside the research institution.

While the DeGette bill does little to resolve the controversy over oral history, the American Historical Association, the Oral History Association, and other history-related organizations have formally requested that the OHRP (which in the past has sent contradictory messages to the historical community) clarify their regulations and policies regarding the applicability of oral history in IRB review.

On 21 June 2006, Readex, a leading publisher of online historical collections, announced the completion of Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876. An integral part of Readex’s Web-based Archive of Americana, this digital edition offers fully searchable, cover-to-cover reproductions of nearly 350,000 issues from over 700 historical American newspapers, totaling more than 1.5 million pages. Digitized primarily from the extensive historical newspaper holdings of the American Antiquarian Society
(AAS) and published in cooperation with the AAS, Early American Newspapers, Series I is a collection of great significance for historical researchers at all levels.

Early American Newspapers, Series I provides unprecedented access to America's past by documenting daily life, popular issues and events and both majority and minority views in hundreds of communities. The collection Focuses largely on the 18th century and offers titles from 23 states and the District of Columbia. This comprehensive resource is based on Clarence S. Brigham's "History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820" and other authoritative bibliographies. Users can easily view, magnify, print and save items and limit searches to items that fall into such categories as news/opinion, election returns, letters, poetry, legislative acts or legal proceedings, prices, advertisements, matrimony notices, and death notices.

"The joint effort of Readex and the American Antiquarian Society has led to the creation of a digital historical newspaper collection of unparalleled breadth and depth," said Ellen S. Dunlap, President of the American Antiquarian Society. "We are pleased to see our vast newspaper holdings serve to further contribute to fresh understandings of our nation's past."
"Now, Web-based access to one of the most valuable sources for 18th- and 19th-century historical research is enabling students and scholars at hundreds of institutions worldwide to explore nearly every aspect of early America," said Remmel Nunn, Readex Vice President of New Product Development.

As part of the America's Historical Newspapers collection, Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876 shares a common interface with Early American Newspapers, Series II, 1758-1900 and Early American Newspapers, Series III, 1829-1922.

For more information on the digital edition of Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876, the Archive of Americana or other Readex products, visit

Item #1 – History Coalition Weighs in on Net Neutrality: Two weeks back the National Coalition for History voted to join the Net Neutrality Coalition. This last week the history coalition submitted two letters of support for pending legislation designed to retain an open Internet.

Letters of support for The Communications Consumers Choice and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 (S. 2686) were sent to the Senate and letters in support of an amendment to the Communications Opportunity Promotion and Enhancement Act (H.R. 5252) were submitted to the House. Member organizations seeking copies of the letters should contact the Executive Director at .

Item #2 – PIDB Member Named: Admiral William O. Studeman, a resident of Great Falls Virginia, has been named by the Speaker of the House of Representatives as his representative on the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB). Admiral Studman is a former director of the National Security Agency (NSA). At this time, only the Minority Leader of the Senate – Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) – has yet to name his representative. To that end several weeks ago, the National Coalition for History contacted Senator Reid’s office and advanced the names of three highly qualified candidates for the Senator’s consideration.

One posting this week. In "American Express Announces $10 Million Commitment for Historic Preservation Through 'Partners in Preservation'
Program” (PR Newswire; 6/14/2006) details are announced of a new multi-million dollar five-year commitment to historic preservation through the establishment of a partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program is dedicated to preserving sites both in the U.S. and around the world. For details of the program visit:

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