State Department Historical Advisory Committee Meets

The State Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation (HAC) met on December 13. The Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations to the Office of the Historian concerning the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) documentary series.

The meeting began with the selection of a new chairman. Dr. Richard Immerman (representing the American Historical Association on the panel) was unanimously elected replacing Dr. Robert J. McMahon.

The acting-Historian of the State Department, Ambassador Edward Brynn, gave a brief update on the office’s activities. The Historian’s Office is in the process of preparing a move to new, larger office space late next year. He reported that Carl Ashley was named chief of the Declassification and Publication Division. Ambassador Brynn stated that he intended to stay on in his position in an acting capacity under a permanent successor is named.

Deputy Historian David Herschler stated that the office

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was making good progress on all fronts. With regard to the FRUS, the staff had declassified three volumes since September and expected three more before the HAC next met in early-2011. Six volumes had been completed this year bringing the total of the Nixon/Ford administrations to 37 volumes. Herschler also announced three new historians had been added to the staff and that he hoped the remaining vacancies would be filled within the next month.

Herschler noted that the “The American Experience in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975” conference held in September was a huge success. Secretary of State Clinton gave the opening address at the conference which brought together key policymakers and scholars of the Vietnam War era. The conference proceedings can be viewed on-line by clicking here.

2011 will mark the sesquicentennial of the FRUS and the office is considering the publication of a history of the FRUS.

The committee received an update from Sheryl Shenburger, the Director of the National Declassification Center (NDC) at the National Archives. She noted the cooperation of the Historian’s Office in expediting declassification of State Department records. The NDC has been tasked by President Obama with eliminating the 417 million page backlog of records awaiting declassification by the end of 2013. She reported her office had just released a declassification prioritization plan based on public interest and researcher use. The NDC is also considering special collection reviews such as the Pentagon Papers or the creation of the Berlin Wall.