Archivist's Speeches: before the Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives Congress of the United States (2000)
Archivist of the United States
Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government
Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives
Congress of the United States
March 28, 2000
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, and Subcommittee staff: as Archivist of the United States, I am pleased to appear before you to present the Fiscal Year 2001 appropriation request for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Before anything else, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Hoyer, and other members of the Subcommittee for giving NARA strong, bipartisan support on appropriations. We believe we have been making the most of it as we have moved forward to implement NARA's Strategic Plan. I also thank you for the time you have taken out of your demanding schedules to meet with me personally about our budget request for 2001.
I want to begin my explanation of our budget request with an announcement of some news of potential importance to the entire Federal Government, in fact to everyone in our country who keeps records and depends on them.
Electronic Records Breakthrough
Every year since I have been Archivist of the United States, I have been identifying the problems we face with computer-generated electronic records as a major challenge. I have told you how hard it is to preserve and provide access to them. It isn't just that people can erase them with the click of a computer key. It isn't just that electronic records do not last as long on digital media as they do on paper. The greater problem is their system-dependency. Given the rate at which computer software and hardware become obsolete, many records "born digital" today may not be readable a few years from now let alone many years into the future. We also face being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of email, word-processing documents, and other electronic records in multiplying formats being generated every day within the Government and elsewhere. Unless we can meet the technological challenge to preserve immense quantities of born-digital electronic records, NARA will be unable to meet its statutory mission to preserve the records of the Executive, Congressional, and Judicial branches of the Federal Government.
Therefore, meeting electronic records challenges has been a priority for NARA. Our Strategic Plan commits us to working "to ensure that electronic as well as paper records are created and preserved for access as long as needed." Two years ago I stated to this committee that technology had created our electronic records challenge and technology would be required to meet it. I am pleased to say today that, with the support you and other partners have given us, I think we are on the verge of a major technological breakthrough that could make possible the long-term retention and preservation of the born-digital electronic records of the Federal Government. At long last, a practical Electronic Records Archives may be in sight.
Faced with the need for a way to preserve and provide access to literally millions of digital files, we joined in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Patent and Trademark Office. Within this partnership, we asked the San Diego Supercomputer Center, a national laboratory for computational science and engineering at the University of California, San Diego, whether available technology could meet our need for preserving large quantities of electronic records reliably across generations of information technology. The Center responded with an information-management architecture for an Electronic Records Archives capable of handling millions of records, accommodating a variety of electronic record formats, and providing continuing access to authenticated and preserved electronic records into the indefinite future.
The Supercomputer Center has developed prototype demonstrations of parts of this architecture using a body of electronic records reflecting the diversity created within the Federal Government. The test records included several databases, a geographic information system, office-automation files, digital images, and a million email messages. One demonstration involved converting the million email messages from their native email format to a preservation format, storing them in an archival repository, and providing access to them using a completely different technology. All this was accomplished in less than two days. The demonstrations are sufficiently encouraging that we will push to refine this architecture and develop working tools. We are looking at nothing less than the real possibility of an Electronic Records Archives that can preserve any kind of electronic record, free it from the format in which it was created, retain it indefinitely, and enable requesters to read it on computer systems now in use and coming in the future.
This technology is an investment for the entire Federal Government, and the payoff could extend well beyond the Federal Government. While the Electronic Records Archives we are planning should enable us to preserve and make available millions of records born digital in the Federal Government, it also promises to be scalable. That means it could be useful for smaller archives including those of state and local governments and private institutions. In fact, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which as you know is administered within NARA, has made a grant for a separate project aimed at making technology developed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center useful in archives besides ours.
When I say that we now can see how to make our dream of an Electronic Records Archives come true, I do not mean that it will be easy, quick, or inexpensive. In fact, it has been described as the archival equivalent of the first moon shot: nothing comparable has ever been done. Doing it will require managing a very complex project and marshaling substantial resources. Initial project estimates are as high as $130 million. The computer scientists in the National Partnership tell us that the most challenging research questions they are facing are coming from NARA. We have learned from the research done to date that we cannot build the Electronic Records Archives using state-of-the-art technology. We can build it only on the basis of emerging technology that has not yet left the research laboratories. Fortunately, the research results in hand indicate that we will be able to build the Electronic Records Archives using the same technologies that are being developed to provide the next generation national information infrastructure, essential for e-commerce and e-government. I cannot overestimate the importance of what we now have a chance to achieve. We must carry this project forward because the alternative, in the electronic information era now fully upon us, is irretrievable records, unverifiable documentation, diminished government accountability, and lost history.
The Budget Request Overall
Our budget request overall for Fiscal Year 2001 totals $308,343,000. That is an increase of $77,755,000 from our enacted appropriations from all accounts for Fiscal Year 2000. Sizeable as the increase seems, it is accounted for by just one item — $88,000,000 for the full renovation of our grand old original National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Later in my remarks I will speak fully to that need. Here I mention it to emphasize that apart from this one-time expense of $88,000,000, our overall budget request is $10,245,000 less than our total appropriations for FY 2000, which were $230,588,000.
The picture is clarified by looking at our budget request for each separate account. In the Repairs and Restoration appropriation, we have requested $4,950,000 for our ongoing repairs and renovation at Presidential Libraries and Archival facilities. This compares to our FY 2000 appropriation of $22,296,000. For the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, we are requesting $6,000,000 for competitive grants, the same as we received for FY 2000 (minus a one-time $250,000 Congressionally directed grant).
In our Operating Expenses appropriation, we are requesting $209,393,000, an increase of $29,351,000. This increase is offset by a decrease of $22,000,000 for our Records Center Revolving Fund. Thus the total increase in these combined accounts is $7,351,000.
The Records Center Revolving Fund began operation, as planned, on October 1, 1999, with the considerable assistance of this committee. The start-up capital for the Revolving Fund that the Congress appropriated for FY 2000 is sufficient for operating the Fund. We needed these funds to implement the new program under which all Federal agencies now reimburse us for storing records still in their legal custody, and for providing records center retrieval services. I am pleased to report that the program is going well. We set up the Revolving Fund so that all agency payments flow into it and all records center expenses are covered by it. And agencies are now treated as customers whose satisfaction is necessary for our success. As this program develops over the next few years, we expect the result to be more efficient and effective recordkeeping for the Government as a whole.
In summary then, our total request, aside from the buildings account, is a very modest increase — $7,101,000, just 3.4 percent above the FY 2000 level. I will explain what that increase will provide before I describe the big project that alone accounts for our increased budget request overall. I will summarize items in the order in which they appear in our full budget presentation.
Improving Records Management
With your support during the last two years, we are carrying forward a nationwide Targeted Assistance Program to assist agencies with their critical records management needs. With the funding provided in FY 1999 and FY 2000, NARA laid the foundation for providing targeted assistance to agencies by bolstering our records management assistance in Washington, DC, and in several regions. I am pleased to say we have been getting fan mail from Government agencies for our efforts. For example, a Department of Labor official wrote that we were "of enormous assistance in making what initially appeared to be an overwhelming task turn out to be . . . manageable." An official of the Department of Justice wrote that "the training you provided to our support staff will go a long way towards ensuring that our records are maintained properly and safely." And an official of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wrote, "Your Targeted Assistance Program definitely hit the mark É."
Our Targeted Assistance Program is not fully available to all of the 175-plus Federal agencies and the offices nationwide in which they generate records. Many more agencies than we have been able to reach have the kind of special needs on which we focus in the Targeted Assistance Program. To extend our help — to produce more of the kind of benefits described in the letters I have quoted above — we request an operating-expense addition of $992,000 in FY 2001 for increased staff to expand records-management assistance to the remaining regions so that every NARA region will have a Targeted Assistance Program.
The increased staff will work in partnership with agencies nationwide in addressing pressing records needs in all media, including the need to schedule electronic records and help Federal agencies manage Government records in all formats in accordance with NARA recordkeeping requirements. The funds we request for FY 2001, combined with funding the Congress provided for FY 1999 and FY 2000, will enable us to make significant progress towards the following objectives first identified in our FY 1999 budget request:
- Identify agencies with critical needs for managing their records, particularly those with valuable records at risk
- Put more people to work helping agencies' Washington and field offices develop retention schedules for at-risk records, recommend programs to improve the management of these records, and provide increased and improved communications to agencies
- Decrease the time it takes NARA to appraise and approve records
- Improve overall the Government's ability to identify, schedule, and track Federal records, for the benefit of Congressional oversight as well as for the public and the agencies themselves.
While we are providing immediate targeted assistance to agencies, we also are proceeding with a project we have launched with your support to improve the management of records in all media for the long term in the Government as a whole. Though we are requesting no new money for this in FY 2001, I want to make you aware that we are moving forward to review and reinvent, if needed, the policies and processes by which Federal records in all media are appraised and scheduled in the electronic-information era. As Archivist of the United States, I have no greater statutory responsibility than to review and approve agencies' schedules for the disposition of their records. Working with agencies and the public, we hope to make records-retention scheduling more effective and efficient to be sure that the right records are kept for as long as needed for the public, the agencies themselves, the courts — and the Congress.
The need for such records management help to Federal agencies is not abstract. It is clearly evident in recent newspaper headlines about the search by the Department of the Interior for records demanded by Congress and the courts to document what happened to millions of dollars that may be due to Native Americans. And it is evident in the even more recent search by the Department of Energy for records to determine whether thousands of workers may have been unknowingly exposed to radioactive contaminants in Government-owned plants. Money, health, and the credibility of government all are at stake. That is why the modest increases we request for improving Federal records management are vital.
Meeting Electronic Records Challenges
As I said at the outset, the challenges of managing, preserving, and providing access to records have grown now that Federal records are increasingly electronic. Already I described our major electronic records initiative — development of the Electronic Records Archives that we now think possible. At this point, we are requesting only a modest increase in our FY 2001 budget to add to base support from previous years for this major project. This level of investment should be considered "seed money": it will enable us to articulate our needs, evaluate our options, and develop a comprehensive plan for building the Electronic Records Archives. For now, we can move ahead with such relatively small additional investments. If the research-and-development work continues to go well, however, we will need to request substantial increases in funding in the future in order to translate the research into production capacity.
In the meantime, we already are providing interim help with electronic records to agencies in what we call our Fast Track Guidance Development Project. This is an interagency partnership to identify "best practices" currently available for dealing with electronic records, and to provide interim guidance quickly that Federal recordkeepers can use while work goes forward on developing more complete and longer-term solutions. Already the project has made available five products of use to agencies.
Additionally, funds received for FY 2000 including base budget support will enable us to continue work with the Department of Defense on evaluating the software certification process for the electronic records management requirements standard we helped DoD develop and to revise that standard to address classified records. Also we are expanding our current ability to provide access to historically valuable databases that we preserve, and to process the increasing volume of electronic records that cannot wait for a fully satisfactory system to be built.
Altogether for FY 2001 we request $902,000 in addition to the base budget for electronic records work. The increase will give us more high-level professionals to work with our partners on the Electronic Records Archives. And it will enable us to expand our current efforts to help agencies manage electronic records by testing guidance within NARA itself. We can provide records management advice most effectively and authoritatively if we use our own agency as a test bed, a model for others of affordable, workable records-management practices. In fact, advice we offer other agencies will have no credibility unless we use it with our own records. We will document the study itself, and advise other agencies of such products and improvements as come out of it. Moreover, implementing our study's recommendations will go hand in hand with evaluating recordkeeping system software that we expect to test in FY 2000 in hope of coming up with a records management application (RMA) that we can use agency-wide, and that may also prove useful to others. Thus from our own experience we will provide guidance to agencies and develop new ways to address the challenges before us all.
Relative to where we have been with electronic records work, huge strides have been made, but there is much unfinished business. The keys for progress include continuing to leverage our resources successfully through productive partnerships, improving our working relationships with Federal agencies, and maximizing the opportunity given us by Congressional support to build NARA's capacity to get the job done.
Expanding Public Access to Records
Public access to public records is one of the hallmarks of open, accountable democratic government, and we are proud of our access progress. To take a few examples from last year, we released 17 million more pages of declassified records; we opened another 445 hours of taped White House conversations from the Nixon Administration; we added to the 4.5 million pages in the JFK Assassination Records Collection that we administer by Congressional directive; and we published a 1,100-page description of the many kinds of records in our holdings that are of use in the international effort to trace gold, artwork, and other assets looted by the Nazis from Holocaust victims. Just last month the House Banking and Financial Services Committee held another hearing on the assets search, to which NARA has been a major contributor.
Users of our Federal Register publications are now finding great quantities of current government information online. Along with the daily FR itself, the entire Code of Federal Regulations, and the public laws, we put online in FY 1999 the Codification of Executive Orders (1945-1989), and an index to Executive Orders (1957-1999). We completed putting online the entire Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents for the Clinton Administration (1993-current); and we placed online for the first time the Public Papers of the President, 1996, Volumes I and II, and 1997, Volume I, including photographs from those volumes. In 1999, Internet users made 124 million retrievals from Federal Register publications online.
We're also pleased about the Electronic Access Project that is playing such a major part in our ability to meet needs of records users in every Congressional district, not just where we have physical facilities. As part of this project, genealogists, historians, and other researchers now can locate microfilmed records they need from an online microfilm publications database we completed in FY 1999, describing more than 3,000 microfilm publications, and identifying where they can be found in NARA's facilities. And we continued building an Internet-accessible catalog to all of NARA's nationwide records holdings. People who want to do research in our collections can begin at home or school and search more than 400,000 descriptions of our records through the NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL), which is a prototype for our Archival Research Catalog (ARC). Early in 2001, we will have built the catalog with NAIL data in it, and will begin converting additional data to reach our goal of providing descriptions of 100 percent of our archival holdings in a nationwide catalog by 2007. Additionally, teachers, students, and the general public can now download, via the Internet, 124,000 images of significant and high-interest documents, photos, and other NARA records from our nationwide holdings, a collection that we completed digitizing in FY 1999.
Not the least of our access achievements is our creation of an exhibit called "The Treasures of Congress" from the Congressional materials we safeguard in our Legislative Archives. We have invited members of the House to view that exhibit at an event we are hosting in the National Archives Rotunda on April 4, and we hope that all members of the committee can attend. This exhibit will become available to Americans everywhere via the Internet as we put up its images in our Online Exhibit Hall.
Improving Access for Veterans
For FY 2001, our access budget speaks first to the need to improve NARA's service to our nation's veterans and their families. Our National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis receives nearly two million written requests each year from veterans and their representatives for documentation of their military service and entitlement to benefits. But in recent years, accelerated by the buyout in 1994 and other factors, backlogs of unanswered requests have ranged from 30,000 to 140,000.
To begin remedying this situation, last year we established a pilot team of employees to experiment with teaming concepts, new workflow procedures, and greater use of desktop information technology resources. In addition, we designed training materials and procedures and redesigned the performance management system. We also started work to design and build a more substantial information technology system, and to help the current workforce make a smooth transition to the new technologies, processes, and organization.
In January, we took the next step in the transition from experimentation to implementation. Two new teams have been created and another will be selected in April. Newly designed methods will be used to train the new teams to answer requests using enhanced information technology. Along with the existing pilot team, these new teams will form a part of a new organizational model that is expected to replace the branch structure that has existed since our National Personnel Records Center was formed. And, as additional elements of the reengineering and reorganization are developed, they will be tested on these core teams.
As this combination of new technology, redesigned workflow, and staff retraining comes into play, we expect to see measurable improvements by this coming fall — quicker turnaround time, reduced backlogs, and greater customer satisfaction. The latter is most important because we want not only to respond fast but to do so with the right information.
For FY 2001, we request the third and final increase, $1,685,000, in the sequence I outlined last year to extend our customer-service innovations, technological support, and special training throughout the staff dealing with veterans' records. These changes will continue into FY 2003, by which time we expect to meet fully our target of bringing our average response time on veterans' records requests down to just six days.
Expanding Access Online
For FY 2001 we also request $1,331,000 to continue making progress towards our strategic goal of building an online information system and expanding our online services to customers nationwide. A dedicated staff, working with NARA's technical staff and contractors, is needed to work on the following: (1) cost-effective and efficient web delivery of content including information from all NARA databases (present and future); (2) electronic submission of Government documents and records from agencies to the Federal Register; (3) electronic submissions of requests by agencies and the public for NARA's services, and (4) dealing with "e-commerce." NARA also needs web development software, hardware, and training to continue to create online products that respond to our customers' needs. The funds we request will pay off in expanded accessibility of records and services for all NARA customers nationwide, including Federal agencies as well as the public, who have Internet access through their home, office, and library computers, or from any of NARA's facilities nationwide. Also for FY2001 we are requesting $331,000 to acquire contractor support for our data administration program so that we can improve data quality and reliability, increase data sharing, and control data redundancy.
Upgrading Our Access Infrastructure
Our effort to expand access to the public will be further enhanced by upgrades in our communications infrastructure for which we request $4,494,000 in FY 2001. One upgrade is basic — a customer-friendly telephone service that will replace an expensively aging system and connect our facilities efficiently across the country. The other upgrade is in NARANET, the wide-area network that enables us to provide information to and interact with the public and Federal agencies via the Internet. NARANET enables us to create, maintain, retrieve, analyze, and share information across all our facilities, and it supports all NARA electronic access initiatives. NARANET now enables citizens who cannot visit our sites to do research and request needed information; it gives Federal agencies quick access to records management information and help; it allows researchers visiting one of our locations to find related information at our other locations; and it helps staff nationwide meet customer needs. Within the next several years, NARANET will enable us to receive electronic records from agencies that created them, and to preserve them and provide access to them. NARANET also will support a system we are planning that will facilitate agencies' records scheduling and allow agencies to submit schedules to us electronically. NARANET is critical for achieving multiple goals in our Strategic Plan.
Expanding Access through Declassification
Also we request $5,000,000 in FY 2001 to increase access by meeting declassification deadlines and requirements mandated by Congress and the Administration. NARA leads the Government in pages declassified, but new, Congressionally mandated reviews of records under the Kyl Amendment and the Lott Amendment require re-reviews of already declassified records plus page-by-page review and interagency referrals (in the Nazi War Crimes and Chile/Pinochet projects, for example), which greatly slow the pace of declassification.
Preparing for Presidential Records Access
Also, under the Presidential Libraries Acts of 1955 and 1986, NARA must preserve and provide access to records of the Presidents. In Presidential libraries and one Presidential records project, we safeguard records of eleven Administrations back through President Hoover's. And at the end of the Clinton Administration, NARA will need to ensure that its records, too, are available to historians and the public. We request $950,000 in FY 2001 for additional staff to take custody of and begin processing Clinton Administration records.
Meeting Storage and Preservation Needs of Growing Quantities of Records
Earlier I spoke of our need to improve our service to veterans who need records to document entitlements to benefits. We can respond to those requests only if the records requested have been safely preserved in our holdings. Unhappily, the poor condition of many veterans' service records requires that we institute an immediate, comprehensive program for their preservation. For example, we must reformat 14,400 reels of Air Force Flight Records from 1911-1974, and 1,393 reels of VA Master Index Card Files for World Wars I and II. The Air Force microfilm, which is the only source for many individual flight records, has developed red measles-like spots, which, if unchecked, will destroy the readability of this valuable documentation. The film containing VA card files, which is heavily used, is losing image legibility. Thousands of cubic feet of paper records are in danger of crumbling away from the effects of deteriorating paper stock, the wear and tear of repeated handling, and damage from a 1973 fire.
For FY 2000, the Congress gave us funding to set up a preservation program and plan for housing, reformatting, and providing special treatment for these documents. We request $1,055,000 for FY 2001 for the next steps to carry forward records treatment in our veterans' records preservation program. Specifically we need the funds to perform holdings maintenance, prepare materials for reformatting, let contracts for reformatting, and purchase specialized supplies and equipment. America's veterans must remain confident that records of their service will be available to them, their families, and historians in years to come.
To protect buildings and visitors as well as records, we request $500,000 for security enhancements we need to make in order to comply with the Administration's directive that all agencies must implement appropriate security countermeasures. The work will go forward in our ten Presidential libraries, which drew more than 1.3 million visitors in FY 1999, as well as in our highly visible and much visited Washington-area archives.
Finally, we request $4,973,000 for FY 2001 to cover the costs of locating, renting, and maintaining temporary storage in Little Rock, Arkansas, the designated site for the Clinton Library, and moving Clinton Administration records there. This follows the practice we established under the Presidential Records Act in our preparatory moves of records of the Bush and Reagan Administrations, whose libraries are now in operation.
That concludes my highlighting of items in our budget request except for one, the largest in terms of funds requested for FY 2001, and the one that accounts entirely for the overall increase we are requesting. This is the renovation of the original National Archives Building here in Washington. We have discussed this project with this committee for some time now, and over the past two years you have supported the project with funds for planning and preparations. I can now provide you with a full explanation of what we are ready to accomplish, and why.
The National Archives Building is one of the most architecturally distinguished of the Government buildings in the Federal Triangle. The construction of it took a long time. Arguments for the creation of a National Archives date back to 1810. But it took a succession of fires that destroyed many Government records including the 1890 Census to generate effective support for the project. In 1926 the Congress appropriated the first funds for an archives building; in 1933 President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone; and in 1935 the building was occupied. It has been in continuous use the past 65 years.
Once the need for a National Archives was recognized, the Congress provided funds to make it impressive. One of America's most famous architects, John Russell Pope, whose other works include the Jefferson Memorial, received the commission to design it. It was built to be a permanently safe repository for the nation's valuable records. But it also was built to be an architectural statement of the permanency of the democratic government that those records document and undergird. On one side of the building you will read the following inscription from President Hoover's address at the cornerstone laying:
This building holds in trust the records of our national life and symbolizes our faith in the permanency of our national institutions.
Created within the building was a great and beautiful rotunda for the permanent display of the documents from which our government is derived, the great Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Over the years millions of appreciative Americans from throughout our country and visitors from abroad have visited those founding documents of our government. And just this month, visitors to the Charters of Freedom included two special guests of mine, the national archivists of Canada and France, both of whom envied our nation its foundational documents and marveled at the sight of long lines of people waiting eagerly to view the originals of them.
I tell you all this because I believe that the building we now need to save, with its contents, is a national treasure, not simply a records warehouse with a reading room. And it can long continue to serve its symbolic public functions as well as its practical ones.
Renovation work at the National Archives Building began with preparations for the re-encasement of the Charters of Freedom themselves, supported with funds appropriated in our budget for FY 1999. We need new encasements to preserve the documents for many more generations and to enhance their visibility on display. With help from experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we have used the latest technology to build a prototype re-encasement.
We removed the Transmittal Letter to the Constitution from its old encasement last fall and placed it in the first prototype of the new encasements. When we finish the re-encasements, they will include pages two and three of the Constitution, which were not previously part of the regular public display in the Rotunda.
Re-encasing the Charters will be a time-consuming process. We plan to remove the Charters from display and close the Rotunda for remodeling from July 5, 2001, until July 4 in 2003. The Rotunda remodeling will include preparing vaults for the new Charters encasements, restoring the badly deteriorated historical murals on the walls above the Charters, improving access to the building of visitors with disabilities, and renovating public areas to expand and enhance public education opportunities about the Charters. The murals by artist Barry Faulkner depict Thomas Jefferson presenting the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress, and James Madison presenting the Constitution to the Constitutional Convention. While the Rotunda is closed and the Charters are being carefully examined and re-encased, we will provide the public with a virtual exhibit of them using digitized images in our Internet accessible Online Exhibit Hall. And we have made arrangements for the videotaping of our work to inspect, treat, and re-encase the Charters, which will become the basis for a public documentary showing how it was done.
To finance the education components, which will include a major permanent exhibit on the meaning and history of the Charters, and the restoration of the murals, we are in the process of raising private funds. The public funds we request are needed for the basic renovation of the building itself and its internal systems.
The Congress provided funds in the FY 1999 and 2000 budgets to develop the renovation design for the National Archives Building and to initiate construction of the necessary swing space for use by displaced staff during the renovation. The design of the project is proceeding on schedule, and will be completed in November 2000. The pre-construction engineering work is already being done. The construction contract for the swing space construction and the shelving removal has been awarded and initiated, with completion scheduled for late spring of 2001.
The funds requested in the FY2001 budget will permit the full renovation to proceed. The funds will result in the renovation of the building, eliminating major fire and life-safety deficiencies, bringing the public portions of the building, as well as the Rotunda and all exhibits, into full compliance with accessibility standards, and restoring all mechanical and electrical systems to full operation and compliance with current building codes.
The renovation will address deficient public space needs in the existing building. We will create ground-level entrances so that the very young and the very old as well as the handicapped can gain access to the Charters without climbing the 38 steep steps from Constitution Avenue to the Rotunda entrance. Near the new entrances we will create expanded facilities for research, education, and public programs to relieve the crowding and discomfort now faced by researchers, tour groups, and school children whose numbers have expanded beyond the old building's capacity. For example, we will have a much improved Family and Community History Research Center, much better exhibit space as well as an exhibit on the history and meaning of the Charters of Freedom, a new theater for special programs and showings of motion pictures from our holdings, a new Learning Center for school groups, and a new conference suite for workshops and lectures. And the renovation will make doing research at the National Archives, including using its Legislative Records Center, less cramped and more convenient.
The vault-like National Archives Building was designed and built in the 1930s and has only three entrances/exits. The air ducts which supply conditioned air to the offices, public spaces, and records storage stacks are insulated with cork, and the joints are sealed with an asbestos tape. The ductwork insulation presents a fire and smoke hazard because cork is combustible, which is worsened because there is no separation between floors to prevent fire and smoke from spreading to upper or lower floors through the vertical duct risers. Shaft walls in the records storage stacks essentially provide no horizontal or vertical compartmentalization, which is essential to prevent the spread of fire. The duct risers will be replaced with new fire-rated risers containing fire dampers to prevent smoke and flame from moving through the ducts. The concrete floors will be extended within the shaft openings to prevent the vertical spread of fire. Four new fire stairs and five new fire exits will be added to supplement the three existing exits.
The renovation also will bring the building fully into compliance with current accessibility standards. UFAS / ADA requirements will be met in the renovated Rotunda by removing the steps that are now in front of the Charters display case, lowering the display cases to a height that will enable those in wheelchairs to easily view the documents, and creating new entrances to allow dignified entry to the Rotunda by those in wheelchairs, the elderly, and the infirm.
The renovation also will correct mechanical and electrical deficiencies. The renovation will remove existing ductwork and replace it with new duct capable of providing the airflow necessary to attain preservation temperature and humidity standards. The air handlers will be replaced and upgraded to include the appropriate chemical filtration. These two changes will permit all records storage areas to comply fully with preservation standards for valuable records, including those of the Congress, which are housed primarily in the National Archives Building. The electrical system will undergo a major renovation, replacing the transformers, switchgear, and circuit breakers, as well as upgrading the wiring in the office and public areas to meet modern standards, eliminating the potential for short circuits and cable fires.
The renovation funding will be used in the following proportions:
|Correction of Fire and Life Safety Issues
|Compliance with ADA and accessibility
|Correction of mechanical deficiencies
|Correction of electrical deficiencies
|Improved security for Charters of Freedom
That concludes my formal presentation of our budget request. I hope none of us ever forgets, however, that behind our records and archival work are live human beings and their needs. Among them is the writer of a letter I received last October. It begins:
My grandmother is 91 years old, and is suffering from dementia. We are in the process of applying for Medicaid for her. Our case closes on November 10. In order to qualify for Medicaid, we needed to provide proof of her citizenship, documentation we did not have. After exhausting many sources, including the . . . State Governor's office, Social Security, the INS, Freedom of Information Act, and numerous city clerks, church records, etc., we turned to the National Archives.
The granddaughter then describes how staff members in our San Bruno, California, facility searched various kinds of records without success but did not give up. They reasoned that papers of another family member might have the grandmother's naturalization certificate number, which led them to expand the search to records in our facility in Laguna Niguel, California. Nothing there either, but the detective work went on until finally, in our Chicago facility, our staff turned up the needed information. And here is what their work meant in the granddaughter's words:
They understood the urgency of our situation. They continued digging, even when it appeared that there was no information to be found. We never could have gotten this documentation without them, and my grandmother would not be able to receive much needed Medicaid assistance. As a family we are eternally grateful to the wonderful staff in the National Archives offices . . . for doing a job above and beyond what anyone could expect .... The National Archives is truly a national treasure and an invaluable resource for our country's citizens.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, with your continued support, NARA will continue to be a national treasure and an invaluable resource for millions of Americans. Thank you.