FISCAL YEAR 2012 ANNUAL REPORT–THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY
(Prepared by Lee White, Executive Director, January 2, 2013)
Efforts to address the federal deficit dominated the congressional appropriations process in 2012. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and Democratic control of the Senate and White House, the federal government spent the year gridlocked over funding and tax issues.
Federal appropriations and reauthorization issues have traditionally been a primary focus of the NCH’s advocacy efforts. In 2012, NCH continued to take the lead in advocating for funding for federal programs that affect historians, archivists, educators and other stakeholders. In an increasingly hostile budget environment, NCH has been able to fend off draconian cuts to most programs of interest to our constituencies.
NCH and its constituent organizations were actively involved in advocacy efforts, mobilizing their respective members to contact Congress concerning funding for the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Title VI/ Fulbright-Hays International Education and Foreign Language programs. Senior staffs at the affected federal agencies have credited these efforts with preventing deeper cuts or elimination of programs.
The 2013 NCH Work Plan, which was submitted separately to the Policy Board, details the proposed road ahead for the Coalition. This report summarizes NCH’s activities and highlights major accomplishments in 2012.
1. LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY
A. Federal Appropriations
The 2012 Work Plan directed that appropriations and reauthorization issues should be a primary focus of the NCH’s advocacy efforts.
Not surprisingly, Congress postponed addressing a host of controversial issues before leaving to campaign in the fall. Because of the party conventions and the election, Congress was not in session for most of the period from August until November. As a result, there was no legislative action on issues affecting our interests, such as reauthorizing federal education and federal records management programs.
Congress was unable to finalize a budget for FY 2013 when the new fiscal year began on October 1, 2012. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) at the end of September that provides funding to keep the federal government operating until March 27, 2013. Federal programs remain funded at the FY ’12 level.
On January 1, Congress passed legislation addressing the tax issues involved in the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.” However, Congress postponed action on the across-the-board budget cuts, known as the “sequester,” which would have gone into effect on January 2. Congress set a new deadline of March 27, the same day the current CR expires. Should Congress fail to act, automatic spending cuts estimated at $85 billion would go into effect.
B. Federal Funding of K-12 History Education
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was last authorized in 2001 during the Bush administration under the rubric of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The NCLB’s authorization expired in 2008. In 2012, efforts to pass an ESEA reform bill stalled in the House and Senate. The Obama administration’s decision to grant states waivers from NCLB’s looming compliance requirements removed the sense of urgency for Congress to act on the reauthorization legislation.
Nonetheless, NCH worked closely with history, educational and civics organizations in seeking to create a dedicated funding mechanism for K-12 history and civics education in the Department of Education’s FY 13 budget. The Executive Director met with the staffs of nearly 25 members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to seek a champion to request funding during the appropriations process. While we were ultimately unsuccessful, the effort was important to demonstrate to Members of Congress continued public support for history education.
C. National Historical Publications and Records Commission
For many years, the History Coalition has led the fight to stave off elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and to ensure that it receives adequate funding to meet its mission. Unfortunately, this small but vital program remains a perennial target for budget cutters in Congress and at the Office of Management and Budget.
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) received $5 million under the continuing FY 13 budget resolution. This is $2 million more than the Administration’s request. The House Appropriations Committee proposed cutting NHPRC funding to $2.5 million. The National Coalition for History, the Association for Documentary Editing, the Society for American Archivists, and Council of State Archivists lobbied vigorously for the adoption of the $5 million figure.
D. Elimination of the Political Science Program at the National Science Foundation
In May 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that defunded political science programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The amendment passed by a roll-call vote of 218 to 208.
While the amendment was not considered in the Senate, and not included in the FY 13 continuing budget resolution, this is the second time in recent years that the political science program at NSF has been targeted for elimination. NCH coordinated its opposition to the amendment with the National Humanities Alliance and American Political Science Association.
E. Presidential Records
For over a decade, the History Coalition has been the lead advocate for enactment of Presidential Records Act (PRA) reform legislation. President Obama issued a Presidential Records Executive Order (EO) in 2009, replacing the overly restrictive Bush administration EO. Unfortunately, efforts to codify changes in the PRA remain stalled in Congress.
In November 2011, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved, by voice vote, H.R. 3071, the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2011.” Although H.R. 3071 received overwhelming support in Committee, the bill was never scheduled for floor action in the House and no comparable legislation was introduced in the Senate.
2. REGULATORY ADVOCACY
The National Coalition for History continues to play an important advocacy role with federal agencies. NCH has maintained excellent relationships with the Archivist of the United States, the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Chief Historian of the National Park Service, the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Historian of the State Department, and other key officials in the federal historical and archival bureaucracies.
A. Processing, Preservation and Declassification of Federal and Presidential Records
NCH collaborated with other stakeholder groups in working to reduce over-classification of government records, increase public access to unclassified records, speed the declassification process, and establish standards for the preservation and retrieval of federal and presidential electronic records.
The National Archives, under the leadership of Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, has been aggressively urging agencies to take their records management responsibilities more seriously, although NARA still lacks the legal authority to compel compliance with federal records laws. NCH will continue to advocate for passage of legislation to establish meaningful records preservation standards and aggressively ensure federal agency compliance.
In 2012, NCH continued to advise and monitor the activities of the National Declassification Center, Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress, and the Advisory Committee on Presidential Library-Foundations.
In December, the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) submitted recommendations to the President on reforming procedures on the classification and declassification of federal records in a report entitled Transforming the Security Classification System.
Of particular interest to historians is PIDB’s recommendation regarding the prioritization of the preservation and processing of “historically significant records.” The PIDB suggested that these records “should be identified and set aside as early as possible after their creation to ensure their preservation, long-term access and availability to agency policymakers and historians. Each agency should have an in-house history staff to assist agency records officers and declassifiers in the prioritization of records.” NCH will be advocating for implementation of this recommendation by Congress and within the Administration.
B. Open Government Initiatives
NCH was involved in collaborative efforts with stakeholders on a number of open government issues. These include a letter sent to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa opposing H.R. 3699, the “Research Works Act.” This bill would have repealed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy that secures no-fee public access to NIH’s taxpayer-funded research. The legislation would also have blocked the development of similar public access policies at other federal agencies. The bill was never considered by the Committee.
A group called “Yes We Scan” organized a White House petition drive to have the federal government analyze the cost effectiveness of digitizing holdings from the National Archives, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, and scores of other federal agencies. The petition called on the Obama administration to create a commission to answer–within one year–questions such as what federal holdings should be prioritized for digitization, the technological challenges of digitization, costs, and the economic and non-economic benefits. Unfortunately, the petition did not receive the requisite 25,000 signatures on the White House website to move forward. NCH publicized the effort widely through its newsletter, website and constituent organizations.
3. GEORGIA STATE ARCHIVES CLOSURE
In September, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced the closure of the State Archives to the public on November 1 due to across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Governor Nathan Deal. The Secretary of State also eliminated 7 of the 10 positions at the State Archives.
On September 21, the National Coalition for History (NCH) and 19 stakeholder organizations sent a letter to the Governor and Secretary of State opposing the budget cuts, denial of public access to the Archives, and the termination of the bulk of the Archives’ employees.
In October, Governor Deal and Secretary of State Kemp announced they would restore funding to keep the facility open until the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30, 2013. The agreement retained the current hours of operation, which would have been severely curtailed. Under the plan, the University System of Georgia would assume control of the Georgia Archives on July 1, 2013, pending approval of the state’s General Assembly.
Public pressure put on the Governor by archivists, historians and other stakeholders garnered a great deal of media coverage and clearly motivated Deal’s commitment to keep the Archive’s open. NCH played a critical role in coordinating the response from our membership organizations that included historians, archivists, political scientists, legal historians and the preservation community (Civil War Trust).
4. RELEASE OF CIA HISTORY ON THE BAY OF PIGS INVASION
In May 2012, the National Security Archive sued the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act seeking to declassify the full “Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation.” Unfortunately, the U.S. District Court sided with the Agency’s efforts to keep the last volume of the report secret in perpetuity.
The Archive appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In response, the CIA filed a “motion for summary affirmance,” in effect asking the court to decide in its favor without full briefing or oral argument. In December, the D.C. Appeals Court rejected the CIA’s position and ruled that the case merits the court’s full consideration with briefs due in early-2013.
In August, the National Coalition for History (NCH) coordinated a letter from a dozen organizations representing thousands of historians, archivists, political scientists, educators and researchers opposing the CIA’s motion. The NCH letter argued the precedential impact of the case would have devastating consequences on future access to records and materials for research, especially in the areas of national security, foreign relations, military history and presidential history. NCH asserted federal agencies would rely on the district court’s overly broad interpretation to deny similar FOIA requests in the future.
Tom Blanton, the Executive Director of the National Security Archive, told the History Coalition, “Your wonderful letter definitely had an impact on the government, which claimed in its brief that including such a letter as an attachment, as our lawyers did, was unheard of. But the court accepted our brief and the letter.”
5. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
A. Conferences and Presentations
In 2012, the NCH Executive Director attended—and in some cases participated in—panel discussions at meetings of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, Council of State Archivists, Society for History in the Federal Government, and the Southern for Military History.
The Executive Director made a presentation on legislative advocacy during the National Humanities Alliance’s Advocacy Day event in March. Humanities advocates visited Capitol Hill distributed issue briefs and state grant data, and urged members of Congress to support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and Title VI/Fulbright Hays International Education programs.
B. Publications and Action Alerts
Throughout the year NCH continued to provide the historical and archival communities with its electronic newsletter, NCH Washington Update. We continue to have secondary distribution through the SEDIT list of documentary editors, as well as through a direct link from George Mason University’s History News Network web page.
NCH columns in constituent member publications continue to reach a broad but targeted audience of historians (30,000), museum professionals (10,000), and archivists (46,000) through the publications of its constituent organizations.
6. FINANCIAL STATEMENT
The National Coalition for History ended its fiscal year with $182,725 in income and $174,500 in expenses. At the end of the fiscal year NCH had cash-on-hand in the amount of $178,600.