Fiscal Year 2022 NCH Annual Report

The National Coalition for History (NCH) is a consortium of 43 organizations that advocates on federal legislative and regulatory issues. NCH comprises a diverse constituency not just professional historians, but archivists, independent researchers, teachers, students, documentary editors, preservationists, genealogists, political scientists, museum professionals and other stakeholders. NCH also provides member organizations with news and analysis about how funding and policy decisions made in Washington affect their historical work and institutional interests. Beyond lobbying and issue expertise, because of my experience as long-time executive director of the coalition, I provide institutional memory and context as we seek to address the many challenges facing the profession.

An analysis of the fiscal year (FY) 2023 federal budget for history, archives, education, and preservation agencies and programs is found in a separate section at the end of this report, along with charts breaking down funding for FY 23 and a three-year historical comparison.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): The furor over former President Trump’s handling of classified documents has probably drawn more attention to the agency than at any time in its existence. In August, I was quoted in two New York Times articles on the Presidential Records Act and its application in the current situation. I was also interviewed on C-SPAN. This has obviously given NCH a great deal of exposure on a national level.

We have also been involved in other major issues concerning NARA.

  • Earlier this year, NCH submitted testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging a major increase in NARA’s budget for FY 23. As noted in the budget report: NARA received $427.5 million for operating expenses (OE), a $39.2 million increase, or 10 percent, from the FY 22 level of $388.3 million. $2 million is designated to preserve and make publicly available the congressional papers of former Members of the House and Senate. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) received $12 million in base funding, up from $7 million last year. However, the Commission received an additional $23,772,500 in congressionally earmarked projects, bringing the total up to $35,772,500. By comparison, the NHPRC only received $5.8 million in congressional earmarks in FY 22. This is by far the highest level of funding the NHPRC has received in its history.
  • In August, NCH sent letters to the Senate Armed Services, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees supporting the “Access to VeteransRecords Act” which authorized $60 million in additional funding to NARA to eliminate the backlog of approximately 500,000 requests from veterans for their military records. The closure during the pandemic of the National Personnel Records Center, operated by NARA, created the backlog which has been exacerbated by the fact that most of the records are paper. Some of the funding would go towards digitization of those records. The Congress included the bill in the National Defense Authorization Act which President Biden signed into law in December.
  • On August 3, President Biden announced the nomination of Dr. Colleen Joy Shogan to be the 11th Archivist of the United States. Shogan would be the first political scientist and first woman to serve in the position in a non-acting capacity. NCH issued a statement in support of her nomination. At the request of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), NCH submitted questions to be asked of the nominee at her confirmation hearing. NCH also sent letters to all HSGAC members endorsing Dr. Shogan’s confirmation. Unfortunately the HSGAC deadlocked 7-7, along party lines, on sending her nomination to the Senate floor. With the Democrats holding a clear 51-49 majority in the new Congress, the White House is planning to resubmit Dr. Shogan’s nomination to the Senate. NCH will once again mobilize our member organizations to send messages of support to the Senate. It is expected that she will be confirmed.
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and NARA have extended the compliance deadline for a rule mandating the use of electronic records by Federal agencies. On December 23, 2022, OMB and NARA issued a new directive extending the compliance deadline to June 30, 2024. On June 28, 2019, OMB and NARA jointly issued a memorandum providing guidance on managing Federal records. In a major policy change, the memo mandated that all Federal agencies must transfer permanent records to NARA in electronic formats after December 31, 2022. NARA said it would no longer accept paper records as of that date. This change would obviously have far-reaching impacts on all users of the National Archives and place a burden on federal agencies to comply in a timely manner. To see the original memo, click here. The NCH has, for some time, been urging OMB and NARA to extend the deadline. The federal government shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic made compliance with this mandate even more unrealistic. We appreciate NARA listening to, and addressing, the concerns of their major stakeholders.
  • The Civil Rights Cold Case Investigations Support Act of 2022 (Public Law 117-222) was signed into law by President Biden in December. Because President Trump never appointed any members, passage of the law was necessary to extend the term of the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board from four to seven years with the option to extend for an additional year, potentially extending the Review Board’s authority to January 8, 2027. In January 2019, President Trump signed into law the “Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018” (Public Law 115-426). It authorized the National Archives and Records Administration to create a collection of unsolved civil rights case files. In addition, the law established a Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board to determine which records can be released. In February 2022, President Biden appointed, and the Senate confirmed, four of the five members of the board. They are Emory University archivist Gabrielle Dudley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Henry Klibanoff, civil rights lawyer Margaret Burnham, and UCLA Professor of History and Professor of African American Studies Dr. Brenda Stevenson. The White House is currently vetting nominees for the fifth slot on the panel. NCH facilitated submission of the nominees from the AHA, the Organization of American Historians and the Society of American Archivists to the White House Office of Personnel.
  • NCH worked with stakeholders and other coalition members, most notably the Society of American Archivists and the Association for Documentary Editing, in urging the House Oversight and Reform Committee to request that NARA place a freeze on an agreement that was being implemented to permanently transfer control of the museum at the George W. Bush Presidential Library from the agency to the Bush Presidential Library Foundation. If this precedent were to be established, other existing museums would potentially be free to seek a similar arrangement and interpret the history of an administration in ways that casts the president in the most favorable light without impartial input from historians, political scientists, archivists, and scholars. In December, an agreement was announced between NARA and the George W. Bush Library Foundation which includes amendments to ensure that the public will be presented with “a balanced presentation of the historical record.” The revised agreement would:
  1. Require physical signage to distinguish between which portions of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum are run by the George W. Bush Foundation or NARA;
  2. Engage historians to review changes to the permanent exhibit gallery to provide an independent perspective and a balanced presentation of the historical record; and,
  3. Require NARA to submit to Congress a plan to digitize the records of the George W. Bush Library and Museum.

Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA)

In March 2021, bi-partisan legislation was introduced that would authorize a $5 billion investment by the federal government in K-12 US history and civics education over the next five years ($1 billion per-fiscal year). NCH has endorsed the legislation, the “Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA).” (HR 1814, S. 4384).

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the bills languished in both the House and Senate. The legislation has been rewritten to address policy concerns that have arisen, further refining the federal government’s role in the innovative programs and to identify a budget “offset” to pay for them. The CSDA will be reintroduced when the new Congress convenes in January.

We have created a separate homepage on the NCH website devoted to the CSDA explaining how you can advocate on behalf of the bill.

Divisive Concepts

At the start of the new school year, the media began to focus again on the concept of the teaching of so-called “divisive concepts” in K-12 classrooms around the nation. In addition, restrictions are also being imposed at colleges and universities, especially state-run institutions.

NCH opposes the passage of “divisive concepts” legislation by state legislatures. Such bills are designed to limit discussion about racism, sexism, and discrimination in the classroom and/or the workplace. They endanger the academic freedom essential to all classrooms, especially those where history is the focus of discussion and debate.

NCH has created a clearinghouse on our website to provide background information and arguments prepared by organizations at the forefront of the battle against these attacks on history education. We are constantly monitoring the situation and updating the clearinghouse as we find information that is useful to our members.

NCH belongs to the Learn from History Coalition. It is a coalition of parents, educators, and other concerned Americans who are working together to combat “divisive concepts” bills and to ensure that all children can learn accurate, thorough, and fact-based history in our schools. NCH is also a member of an informal coalition formed by PEN America, to share information, coordinate advocacy and monitor developments across the country.

NCH’s Involvement in Planning for the Nation’s 250th Anniversary Celebration

The U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission has intensified its planning to commemorate the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026, hiring many new staff. NCH is a member of the USA 250 steering committee convened by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) that is providing advice to the commission.

Summary of History, Archival, Education and Preservation Funding in the FY 23 Budget

President Biden has signed into law (Public Law 117-264) an omnibus appropriations bill which will fund the federal government for the last nine months of fiscal year (FY) 2023. Click here to access a chart showing how programs of interest to our community fared. It includes the budget for FY 23 and compares it with FY 22 and President Biden’s original FY 23 budget request. Click here to see a second chart that provides funding trends over the past three fiscal years to gain some historical perspective.

The numbers show a general upward trend. While most agencies received modest increases, some programs received their first major funding boosts in some time. These include the National Archives, National Historical Publications and Records Commission, American History and Civics grants at the US Department of Education, and the Historic Preservation Fund at the National Park Service.

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received $427.5 million for operating expenses (OE), a $39.2 million increase, or 10 percent, from the FY 22 level of $388.3 million. $2 million is designated to preserve and make publicly available the congressional papers of former Members of the House and Senate.
  • The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) received $12 million in base funding, up from $7 million last year. However, the Commission received an additional $23,772,500 in congressionally earmarked projects, bringing the total up to $35,772,500. By comparison, the NHPRC only received $5.8 million in congressional earmarks in FY 22. This is by far the highest level of funding the NHPRC has received in its history.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) received $207 million, a $27 million increase from the FY 23 level of $180 million.
  • K-12 history and civics programs at the Department of Education: The Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics were level funded at $3 million. However, the American History and Civics grants program received $20 million up dramatically from $4.75 million in FY 22. The FY 23 total of $23 million marks the highest amount the two programs have received since their establishment.
  • The Title VI/Fulbright-Hays International Education programs received small increases. Title VI (domestic programs) was increased by $3.5 million from $71.8 million to $75.3 million. Fulbright-Hays (overseas programs) only received a $500,000 increase, up from $9.8 million to $10.3 million. Together the programs received $85.6 million, up $4 million from $81.6 million last year.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) received a $26.8 million funding boost to $294.8 million. Library Programs increased by $13.6 million to a level of $211 million, and Museum Programs increased by $7 million up to $47.4 million.
  • The National Park Services’ FY 23 budget includes $204.5 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, an increase of $32 million above the FY 22 level. Within this amount, the bill includes $62 million for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, $30 million for competitive grants to preserve the sites and stories of underrepresented community civil rights, and $11 million for grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The bill includes $26.5 million for the Save America’s Treasures competitive grant program for the preservation of nationally significant sites, structures, and artifacts. The bill includes $29.2 million for the Heritage Partnership Program and provides $12.5 million for competitive historic preservation grants to revitalize properties of national, State, and local significance in rural areas. The American Battlefield Protection Program’s budget was level funded at $20 million. The bill allocates $15 million, up from $8 million last year, to support the ongoing work of the US Semiquincentennial Commission. The bill provides $10 million for a new Semiquincentennial Preservation Grants program to support the restoration of sites that honor the 250th anniversary of the country’s founding, including Revolutionary War monuments.
  • The Library of Congress received $828.5 million, up from $794 million in FY 22.
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s budget was increased by $82 million, up to $1.144 billion. The Salaries and Expenses budget is $893 million, and the Facilities Capital budget is $251 million.
  • The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars received $15 million, level funded from last year.