State Department Inspector General Issues Report on the Office of the Historian

This week, the long-awaited report into the management of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian was released by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG recommended that Director of the Office of the Historian, Dr. Marc Susser, be replaced. As a result, Susser has been reassigned within the State Department, and last week Ambassador John Campbell was named as Acting Director of the Office of the Historian.

This apparently ends the saga that began at a meeting of the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) on December 10, 2008. Dr. William Roger Louis, the historian who had chaired the Advisory Committee for the previous five years alleged that the future of the Department’s “Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series”, which is the official record of U.S. foreign policy, was in jeopardy due to mismanagement by the Office of the Historian by Dr. Susser. Louis read a letter that he had submitted to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing his concerns and then announced his resignation from the Committee.

On December 22, 2008, Secretary Rice met with members of the Historical Advisory Committee to discuss the FRUS series and concerns expressed by some current and former members of the HAC about the series. Secretary Rice stated her strong support for the FRUS series and subsequently appointed an outside Review Team to provide recommendations on the situation by mid-January.

The Review Team issued a report to Secretary Rice concluding that the management crisis in the Office of the Historian threatened the future of the FRUS series. “We find that the current working atmosphere in the HO [Historian’s Office] and between the HO and the HAC poses real threats to the high scholarly quality of the FRUS series and the benefits it brings,” the January 13, 2009 report to the Secretary of State said.

Subsequently, the State Department’s IG office was tasked with reviewing the operations of the Office of the Historian. The final report issued this week includes a list of 24 recommendations suggesting management changes in the Office of the Historian.

Campbell was sworn in as Ambassador to Nigeria in May 2004 and served in that position until November 2007. His most recent assignment was as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources.

A career Foreign Service Officer since 1975, his overseas postings included Lyon, Paris, and Geneva, and he served as Polcouns at Lagos, Nigeria (1988-1990) and Pretoria/Cape Town, South Africa (1993-96). Assignments at the Department have included Dean, School of language Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, Deputy Executive Secretary, Director of UN Political Affairs in IO, and P staff.

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation will next meet at the Department of State, 2201 “C” Street NW, Washington, DC, June 23 and June 24, 2009, in Conference Room 1105. Prior notification and a valid government-issued photo ID (such as driver’s license, passport, U.S. government or military ID) are required for entrance into the building. Members of the public planning to attend must notify Nathaniel Smith, Office of the Historian (202-663-3268) no later than June 18, 2009.

The Committee will meet in open session from 1:30 p.m. through 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, to discuss declassification and transfer of Department of State records to the National Archives and Records Administration and the status of the Foreign Relations series. The remainder of the Committee’s sessions will be closed to the public.