Senate Panel Increases Funding for NEH, Smithsonian and Historic Preservation

On June 21, 2007, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2008 funding bill for Interior and Related Agencies.

The committee provided the National Endowment for the Humanities with a $5 million increase over its FY 2007 level and the amount requested by the President for FY 2008 to a level of $146.3 million. This is significantly lower than the $160 million, or $19 million increase, provided by the House Appropriations Committee in its bill.

Cheney Accused of Seeking to Abolish Security Oversight Office

In a letter released on June 21, 2007, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee accused Vice President Dick Cheney of seeking to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) at the National Archives. The Vice President’s action was allegedly in retaliation for the ISOO’s attempts to force his office to comply with reporting requirements dealing with national security classification under Executive Order (EO) 12958.

It’s Not Small’s World After All

On June 20, 2007, an Independent Review Committee (IRC) charged by the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents with investigating the financial scandals during the tenure of former-Secretary Lawrence Small issued a scathing report highly critical of both Small and the Regents.

The report alleged that Small’s “attitude and disposition were ill-suited to public service,” and found that he created “an imperialistic and insular culture in the Office of the Secretary.”

Smithsonian Overhauls Governance Policies as Deputy Secretary Resigns

On June 18, 2007, the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents announced a sweeping series of internal reforms based on 25 recommendations made in a report issued by its recently formed Committee on Governance.

The issuance of the report came concurrently with the announcement that the Smithsonian’s Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer Sheila Burke would resign effective September 30. Burke’s resignation comes on the heels of the departures earlier this year of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small and the head of the Smithsonian Business Ventures unit Gary M. Beer.

House Panel Questions White House Use of E-Mail Accounts

On June 18, 2007, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued an interim report on its investigation into whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act by using e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign for official White House business.

Among the reports preliminary findings were the number of White House officials given RNC e-mail accounts was higher than previously disclosed, White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts, and there was extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. The report also alleged that there is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these federal records.

Impending House Vote on NEH Funding!

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Interior, Environment & Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 2643) as early as the week of June 18. Insiders predict a “50-50” chance that an amendment might be offered to cut the Appropriations Committee’s proposed $19 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Please contact your Representative and ask him/her to support the committee mark for fiscal year 2008 ($160 million) and oppose any amendments that seek to decrease funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Please go to the Humanities Advocacy Network and enter your zip code to FAX a message asking your Representative to support the $19 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities. You may also call your Member of Congress through the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121.

Presidential Records Bill Clears Senate Panel

On June 13, 2007, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, by voice vote, approved (H.R. 1255) and a companion bill (S. 886), the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007.” The bills are now ready for consideration on the Senate floor. However, we have learned that a temporary hold has been put on the bill to allow concerns expressed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and some other Republicans to be addressed before proceeding with floor action.

House Appropriations Panel Approves Archives & NHPRC Funding

On June 11, the House Appropriations Committee by voice vote approved the Financial Services and General Government fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill. The recommendation includes $315 million ($2.1 million above the President’s request, and $35.7 million above fiscal year 2007) for operating expenses of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

As approved, the bill also includes $10 million for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), for grants to states, local governments, universities, local historical societies, and others to help preserve and archive materials of historic significance. $8 million of this money is allocated to grants and $2 million for operating expenses.

Presidential Records Bill Scheduled for Senate Markup

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee has announced its intention to mark up the Presidential Records Reform Act (H.R. 1255/S. 886) on June 13.

The National Coalition for History is asking everyone in the historical and archival community to contact the members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to urge them to approve the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007.” All Senators can be reached via the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Teaching American History Grants Spared Budget Ax

On June 7, the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education cleared its fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget for the programs under its jurisdiction.

The subcommittee approved $120 million for the Teaching American History grants program at the U.S. Department of Education. While this reflects level funding from FY 2007, the subcommittee rejected the Bush administration’s request that the program be cut by nearly 60 percent, to a level of $50 million.