The National Coalition for History (NCH) recently submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
NCH supports the Biden administration’s recommended funding level of $426.5 million for NARA’s Operating Expenses (OE) budget in FY 23, which is an increase of $38.2 million (10 percent) from the FY 22 level of $388.3 million. Over the past three years NCH, in conjunction with our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance, have been aggressively advocating for increased funding for NARA. This is the first time we have seen a significant increase in appropriations proposed for NARA in over a decade.
NCH also supports the Administration’s proposed base funding level of $9.5 million in FY 23 for the NHPRC grants program. That represents an increase of $2.5 million over the FY 22 base level of $7 million. The NHPRC received a total of $12.3 million in funding in FY 22. However, $5.3 million of that was the result of congressionally directed funding which we expect will fluctuate from year to year.
The testimony states, “NARA’s operating expenses (OE) budget has remained stagnant for more than a decade at a time when the transition to use of electronic records by federal agencies is well underway. Investment in human capital, including professional archivists, is vital for providing an elevated level of service to the public.”
Among other topics addressed were the importance of returning NARA research rooms to pre-pandemic operations as soon as practicable, the growing backlogs in the declassification and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and the need for Congress to provide additional funding to expedite digitization of existing paper records.
In 2019, NARA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that the agency will no longer accept paper records from federal agencies as of December 31, 2022. We expressed our concern, “that with diminished resources and the impact the pandemic had on its ability to perform even its most basic functions, NARA will not be prepared to continue this transition without serious disruptions.”