The Record - March 1998

From The Archivist

Great News From The White House

I am enormously pleased to be able to tell you that the National Archives and Records Administration has received excellent news in the federal budget proposed by the White House for the Fiscal Year 1999. If the Congress approves the President's budget, NARA will receive significantly increased funds to:

  • expand public access to the nation's records;
  • develop solutions to the problems of managing and preserving electronic records;
  • help federal agencies manage their records more efficiently for use in their current operations and ensure preservation for the future;
  • preserve valuable historical records that are already at risk;
  • make repairs in our facilities; and
  • ensure the preservation of the Charters of Freedom.
John W. Carlin, Archivist of the United States

The President proposes to increase NARA's operating budget from $205,166,500 to $230,025,000, an increase of $24,858,500, which is 12.1%. The budget proposal also includes $10,450,000 for repairs and restorations at NARA facilities, re-encasement of the Charters of Freedom to ensure their preservation, and a concept design for the renovation of Archives One. And the proposal would increase funds for grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission by one-half million dollars, 9.1%. The NHPRC budget would rise from $5.5 million to $6 million, which is the most that the NHPRC has ever received for competitive grants.

The proposed budget increase relates to many goals in our Strategic Plan. The proposed increase would help us improve guidance to agencies on front-end records management by enabling us to increase staff for that purpose, establish an information baseline on agency problems and practices, and undertake business process re-engineering to set the stage for development of the portion of a records life-cycle information system in which front-end records management would be automated.

The proposed increase would help us deal more effectively with electronic records by enabling us to accelerate work on the development of standards and tools for electronic recordsmanagement, help develop our own preservation infrastructure for electronic records, and increase our capacity to provide public access to electronic records.

The proposed increase would help us provide greater access to records by enabling us to expedite the declassification of records through a records-scanning project, upgrade the electronic foundation for our delivery of information internally and to customers, and modernize and upgrade NARA's research room equipment. For example, we would begin replacing broken, deteriorating, and inadequate equipment, such as microfilm readers and audio and video players, and we would place research computer terminals in archival facilities and Presidential libraries so that researchers could access at our sites the same information that we make electronically accessible at home.

The proposed increase also would help us meet preservation goals by enabling us to deal with critical problems in preserving veterans' records, and to convert aging motion-picture, audio, and still-photo collections from deteriorating and obsolete formats.

The proposal would protect our base budget, including current salaries and pay raises projected for Fiscal Year 1999, and provide funds for the replacement of our current personnel and payroll processing systems, as well as for increases in rent and facility charges. The proposed budget would help us fill out our staffing plan in some priority areas. Also of great importance for our future progress, the budget would give us both authority and money to plan a "reimbursable" program, through which we would be able to charge agencies for records storage and retrieval services more widely than our records centers do now.

Clearly the President has understood the importance of managing the nation's records well, preserving them, and making them readily accessible—records in electronic as well as in traditional forms. The President is acting dramatically to ensure our progress. We are grateful to him, as everyone will be who cares about our nation's records. The budget represents a tremendous step forward. I now will be working as hard as I can to seek its approval by the Congress.

John W. Carlin