On December 7, historian Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, submitted his resignation to the President, effective December 19, 2008. Professor Weinstein, who has Parkinson’s disease, cited health reasons for his decision. Deputy Archivist of the United States, Adrienne Thomas, will serve as Acting Archivist until a new Archivist is appointed. It is anticipated that Bush administration will not try to seek to name a successor and that President-elect Obama will nominate the new Archivist sometime after he takes office in January.
In his letter to the President, Weinstein said “During my tenure as Archivist, my team of colleagues and I have made substantial progress in achieving virtually all of our goals. Moreover, we at the National Archives have worked diligently and successfully on our primary mission of maximizing public access to the records of all three branches of government while protecting at all costs this agency’s rock-solid nonpartisan integrity.” The Archivist says that the time has come for him to address fresh challenges.
Weinstein was nominated by President Bush on April 8, 2004, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 10, 2005. Under the National Archives statute there is no specific term of office and the position is not intended to change hands automatically with the election of a new President.
The National Archives has seen many major accomplishments under Weinstein’s leadership over the past four years, including:
- An increase in the annual appropriated budget for the National Archives from $318.7 million for fiscal year 2005 to $411.1 million for fiscal year 2008;
- Successful deployment of two National Archives Electronic Records Archives systems, including the EOP (Executive Office of the President) system, launched on December 6, 2008, which enables the transfer, ingest and reliable storage of unprecedented volumes of Presidential electronic records;
- Restoration of public trust through the declassification and release of interagency agreements, an audit of purported reclassification activity, the return of previously withdrawn materials to public access, and the implementation of stringent new procedures to stem withdrawal of previously declassified and released records, reducing the number of withdrawn documents from more than 25,000 between 1995 and 2006 to only 7 to date;
- Preparation for the move of George W. Bush Presidential materials to Dallas, TX;
- Implementation of plans to replace the National Personnel Records Center, which houses four million cubic feet of records, in St. Louis, MO;
- Establishment of the National Declassification Initiative to begin to address the very serious challenges the National Archives faces with the policies, procedures, structure, and resources needed to create a more responsive and reliable executive branch-wide declassification program, particularly with respect to referrals of classified equities between executive branch agencies;
- Inclusion of the once-private Nixon library into the National Archives system of Presidential libraries. Approximately 320,000 pages and 363 hours of audio recordings related to the Nixon Presidency have been opened for research since 2005;
- Launching a major initiative to eliminate the enormous backlog of unprocessed records. In 2006, the backlog consisted of 1 million cubic feet of records; within two years, the backlog has been reduced by 20%;
- Expanding greatly public outreach of the National Archives, in partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives, through the creation of the Digital Vaults and the Boeing Learning Center;
- The establishment of three partnerships with non-governmental organizations to digitize and index major portions of National Archives holdings and make them available to the public at minimal cost to the taxpayer;
- Creating, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the “First Preservers” program which offers support and guidance to state archives and local records repositories to preserve vital records;
- Continued growth of the Federal Records Center program. The Centers currently store 27 million cubic feet of Federal agency records, an increase of more than 7% since 2005;
- Developing leadership in the international arena, hosting delegations of foreign archivists and other foreign dignitaries and cooperating in international programs and agreements with foreign archives.
Professor Weinstein has drawn on his vast network of friends and colleagues to raise the profile of the agency, creating a popular new public program series entitled “American Conversations”. His guests included Sen. Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, historian John Hope Franklin, and noted journalists and public officials who discussed all aspects of American history. He has forged new relationships with the professional archival and historical communities and has been lauded in the media for his courage in making access to archival materials a priority of his tenure at the National Archives.