The National Coalition for History (NCH) recently submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2024 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 $443.2 million for the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Operating Expenses (OE) budget in fiscal year (FY) 2024, which is an increase of $15.7 million from the FY 23 level of $ 427.5 million.
NCH opposes the Administration’s proposed base funding level of $10 million in FY 24 for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grants program. That represents a reduction of $2 million from the FY 23 base level of $12 million. We urge the subcommittee, at a minimum, to fund the NHPRC at the FY 23 level of $12 million.
The testimony states, “Increased federal spending for the National Archives is necessary to manage, preserve, and make accessible the federal government’s records. Prior to last year’s significant increase in funding, NARA’s operating expenses (OE) budget had 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. For too long Congress and the administrations of both parties have, unfortunately, viewed NARA as a mere housekeeping entity, rather than as a vital agency that ensures transparency and historical documentation for the nation.”
Among other topics addressed were the importance of returning NARA research rooms to pre-pandemic operations and the growing backlogs in the declassification, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests. Delays in the processing of records and responses to record requests at presidential libraries also need to be addressed. NCH urged the Appropriations Committee to provide additional funding to expedite digitization of existing paper records.