Spring 2008, Vol. 40, No. 1
A Word About the Archives' Budget
—And the Quality of Our Staff
By Allen Weinstein
As many of you know, I offer a column in each issue of Prologue. Most columns, given my interests and background, deal with historical or archival issues related to my broader responsibilities at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
For this issue, however, I decided to provide readers with a brief glimpse of the budget and expenditures at the Archives—a look at the day-to-day operations of this complex institution.
One of the things I have admired in my three years as Archivist of the United States is the professionalism and dedication of its staff. Some 3,000 employees work with our customers every day to assist them with research of various kinds or providing a guided tour through an exhibit.
Their work, as part of NARA's special mission, was recognized recently by Congress and the President in the form of a generous appropriation for fiscal year 2008—$411.1 million. This level of funding represents an increase of 20.5 percent over fiscal year 2007 appropriations.
This is very good news because for the past several years, NARA has done its job with limited resources—requiring a hiring freeze, a reduction in hours of operation, agency-wide belt-tightening, and a general slowdown in the processing of records.
In response to the new budget, Archives staff have developed innovative ways to broaden access to records and have expanded public programs to inform and educate the public about the mission of the Archives and the importance of the records we preserve.
This new appropriation is allowing us to restore regular research hours effective April 16. Hours had been reduced earlier because of a shortage of funds needed to cover the energy, security, and staff costs involved in keeping the research rooms open evenings and on Saturdays. The once-a-month extended hours created a challenging work environment for our talented reference and research room staff who faced frustrated customers and a high volume of requests on those days. The hiring freeze has been lifted, and we're now in the process of bringing on additional professional archival staff.
The good news of a budget increase, however, must be tempered by the fact that many necessary costs have risen significantly. The lion's share of our budget—$315 million—will be spent on rapidly rising operating expenses: salaries and recently enacted pay raises for nearly all employees; contractor services, such as maintenance and security; and costs of energy at all our facilities except the self-funding federal records centers.
We have received full funding of $58 million to continue the development of the Electronic Records Archives (ERA), which is being built by the Archives to preserve and make accessible all the electronic records being produced by the federal government now and in the future. It will allow access to these records, as well as records of the past as they are moved to electronic format, to anyone, anywhere at any time.
The new budget also includes funds ($28.6 million) for construction projects at the presidential libraries. Among those projects is the construction of an archival addition to the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California. Once the addition is completed to NARA specifications, Nixon presidential records will be moved from College Park to Yorba Linda so that all the records of Richard Nixon's career in public life will be under one roof.
Also included are funds to complete the repairs and restoration of the plaza at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas; $8 million for the first steps of acquiring land for and building a new addition to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston; and money for design work on renovations at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York.
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission is receiving $7.5 million for grants to entities to preserve and provide access to important and significant nonfederal historical records at various repositories around the country.
Despite ongoing fiscal limitations, the National Archives has the resources to meet the needs of our customers, the citizens of the United States—in the form of generous appropriations provided by Congress and the President, but equally important, through the talent, ingenuity, and commitment of our staff nationwide.
Allen Weinstein is Archivist of the United States.