Allen Weinstein: NARA's Budget Blues ... Can Anything Be Done to Help the Agency?

Historians in the News

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein has faced a number of challenges since taking the helm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). None are so daunting, and I'm sure, as frustrating to him as is the proposed fiscal 2007 budget for his agency. According to Hill insiders, unless Congress acts when it reconciles the budget proposals of the House and Senate in conference—and unless the committees throw tradition to the wind and provide an infusion of new money for the agency that neither the House nor Senate to date have independently approved—next fiscal year NARA will be some $8–11 million below what it really needs as a minimum operational base.

Anticipating a drastic reduction in its budget in fiscal 2007 NARA has already begun taking steps in response to the anticipated shortfall. For example, a hiring freeze went into effect on July 3; just days later, NARA requested and obtained approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for early retirement authority and permission to advance to employees voluntary separation initiatives; the goal was to cut expenses by moving some in NARA's aging workforce out of the agency or into early retirement. Finally, the archivist proposed new rules regarding reduced hours of operation—no more weekend hours, no more evening hours—that could dramatically affect researchers who seek access to NARA facilities in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.

So who is responsible for the NARA budget blues? The president for his unrealistic budget proposal? Congress for failing to inject funds for the agency's real needs? The archivist for not having sufficient political clout with the White House or Congress? The history and archives community for not adequately making the case for NARA funding needs to their elected lawmakers? Or, are other factors responsible? ...

Read entire article at Bruce Craig in AHA Perspectives

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