Archivist Testifies Before House Appropriations on FY ‘08 NARA Budget

On March 15, 2007, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein testified on the fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) before the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

In his prepared testimony, Dr. Weinstein said that under the President’s FY 2008 request, NARA would receive $312.8 million for operating expenses, an increase of $33.5 million over FY 2007. The Electronic Records Archive (ERA), an initiative to preserve and make accessible electronic records, would be funded at a level of $58 million, or an increase of $12.7 million from the current year.

Dr. Weinstein noted that the administration had requested no funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

He stated that the operating expenses budget also includes $5.5 million in funding for the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, which will become part of NARA’s presidential library system this year. The proposed budget also includes $5.8 million in funding to continue preparations for the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Dr. Weinstein informed the subcommittee that in order to meet budgetary levels for FY 2007, NARA enacted a hiring freeze that resulted in a loss of seven percent of the agency’s staff. Budget restrictions also forced NARA to curtail research room and public visitation hours. He warned that without the requested additional $21 million in funding for NARA’s base programs that, “we will be forced to expand upon the cost cutting measures already implemented.”

Subcommittee Chairman Jose Serrano (D-NY) began the question-and-answer period by asking if NARA could restore the reductions it had made to the hours of operations of the research rooms if the Archives were to receive the budget it had requested. Dr. Weinstein stated that he had to give a “yes, but” reply. He regretted that NARA been forced to cut down on the hours, but that it would probably take significant multi-year funding increases to allow the Archives to restore the previous hours of operation. He stated that he would supply the subcommittee with a cost estimate of what it would cost to restore the hours.

Both Chairman Serrano and Representative James Moran (D-VA) questioned the Archivist about the elimination of funding for the NHPRC. When asked if he agreed with the zeroing out of NHPRC funding, Dr. Weinstein said that he opposed it. Representative Moran asked how much money should be put back into the program, Dr. Weinstein stated that ideally it would be the fully authorized amount of $10 million, or at least the $7.5 million that the program had received in FY 2007.

A number of subcommittee members raised concerns about last year’s controversy that arose when intelligence agencies within the government sought to reclassify documents that had already been declassified. Dr. Weinstein noted that he had acted swiftly to stop the practice once he had become aware of it. He noted his own personal commitment to making NARA, “an access agency.”

At the end of the hearing, Chairman Serrano expressed concerns that Bush Executive Order 13233 was slowing access for historians to presidential records. The chairman asked the Archivist what NARA’s position was on H.R. 1255, the “Presidential Records Reform Act.” Dr. Weinstein stated that he had given advice, and made his own views on the executive order clear to the Administration. However, he stated he was hesitant to comment publicly on what he had told administration officials in confidence.