Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation February 25–26, 2013
Closed Session, February 25, National Archives and Records Administration
Status of Processing and Opening of Department of State Records at the National Archives
Committee Chair Richard Immerman called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. After a round of introductions, Bill Mayer indicated that his presentation was in response to a January letter that Immerman sent to Mayer and Sheryl Shenberger, regarding various questions about NARA’s operations that had arisen after the December Committee meeting. Mayer first handed out copies of the most recent National Archives organizational chart, noting the presence of the Office of Innovation, an Obama administration initiative. He then directed attention to the six organizations located under the Office of the Chief Operating Officer (C): Federal Register (F); Agency Services (A); Research Services (R); Legislative Archives, Presidential Libraries, and Museum Services (L); Information Services (I); and Business Support Services (B).
Research Services, Mayer continued, include both Washington and regional components. Turning to a separate organizational chart for Research Services, he noted the five national regions—West, Midwest, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and East—each containing regional archives branches. He also highlighted the multiple divisions under the Washington branch, notably the Textual Archives Services Division. Mayer commented that prior to the reorganization of the National Archives, the regional archives branches were somewhat separate; steps toward standardization have occurred.
In reference to the Research Services organization chart, Katie Sibley asked why St. Louis constituted its own region, rather than being grouped with the other Midwestern regional archives branches. Deputy Historian David Herschler responded that the St. Louis facility is the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Trudy Peterson added that military service records and civilian employee records are located in St. Louis. Tom Zeiler inquired about the holdings at the San Bruno and Denver regional archives branches. Mayer responded that those facilities held records of local origin and interest: in the case of San Bruno, the holdings would include military, naturalization, and court records; the Denver branch held court and National Park Service (NPS) records. He added that federal records centers (FRC) are co-located or located close by several of the regional archives branches.
Mayer then noted that some regional archives branches cannot store all of the records on site; with the move of the New York branch to the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, approximately 65 to 75 percent of the records had to be transported and stored at a facility in Pennsylvania. In addition, the Market Street branch, located in Philadelphia, has moved its records to an offsite center. Due to other space constraints, 25,000 cubic feet of Philadelphia-based records are currently housed in Atlanta. He stressed that the NARA reorganization constituted an enormous culture change for the Archives. Prior to the reorganization, each regional archives branch treated its records as its own; reorganization has integrated these regional archives into a more coherent organization.
Immerman asked Mayer about the nature of the Philadelphia records held in Atlanta. Mayer responded that the 25,000 cubic feet of records transferred to Atlanta are court records. Mayer asserted that NARA is attempting to resolve the problem of having regional-based records housed in a different region, noting that the archivists possessing the most expertise with these particular records are not necessarily located where the records are held. He stressed that during his tenure at NARA, he had reconnected with the staff in order to respond to these local issues, as well as meeting with researchers. Mayer added that he would participate in a conference call that afternoon with the regional archives branches in order to promote information sharing. At this point, he underscored the fact that Research Services is an extremely complex entity. Research room visits are changing, due, in part, to a drop-off in microfilm research and the proliferation of online genealogy-based search engines. “Online access,” Mayer commented, “doesn’t carry the ball forward the entire way.” Researchers still need to visit archives.
Mayer directed the Committee’s attention to a United States map, depicting the regional archives branches, and commented that he had visited all the branches with the exception of the Anchorage facility. In response to questions related to the nature of the Anchorage facility, Peterson explained that the facility existed due to the fact that numerous federal records are generated in Alaska; it makes more sense to house these records in Anchorage rather than transporting and storing the records in Seattle. Zeiler inquired as to the number of records created in Alaska; Peterson and David Langbart simultaneously responded that federal agencies located in Alaska generate “a lot” of records. Langbart continued that the federal government has more of a presence in Alaska than in New Orleans or Miami, adding that the federal government also had a robust presence in Atlanta due to the federal courts, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the relative location of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Mayer stressed the unique nature of NARA’s national presence. By way of contrast, the Library of Congress (LOC) has no major federal presence outside of Washington. While the Smithsonian Institution has several locations outside of Washington, its presence is not analogous to the National Archives. Peterson and Langbart noted that the five regions are federal regions; NARA did not devise the five regions as part of its own organizational structure.
Herschler returned to the issue of federal records centers, inquiring if each regional archive branch location is associated with a FRC. Mayer noted that this was not the case and discussed some recent changes. Immerman asked Mayer to define a FRC; Mayer responded that it is a federally-run storage facility for agency records. Agencies retain control over records stored at a FRC. Once records are transferred to a regional archive branch, an agency relinquishes this control. Langbart underscored that records transferred to a FRC remain in the legal custody of the agency; often, these records are not needed for the conduct of current business. Bill Fischer noted that 85 percent of the Department of State records located at the FRC in Suitland are consular records and 15 percent are lot files. Continuing, he commented that the Department’s Records Service Center (RSC) is a staging or processing center for Department records slated for transfer to Suitland.
Mayer then asserted that, as a result of the reorganization, Research Services and Agency Services (under which the National Declassification Center (NDC) is located) must be in step and communicate information in a timely manner. Langbart, referencing the Research Services organization chart Mayer showed to the Committee, said that the textual records component in Washington is larger than the other Research Services entities in the system combined, excepting St. Louis.
Discussion ensued about the custodial control of records located in the Washington, D.C. area. Mayer noted that records housed in Washington are organized by records media or specialized function: textual records, special media, electronic records, special access/Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Customer Service Center, and holdings maintenance. Mayer stressed the point that all Washington divisions are involved in the life cycle of records, which includes accessioning, processing, and reference. At this point, he referenced a New York Times blog post that asserted that the National Archives had destroyed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records. However, the FBI had, following a NARA-approved records disposition schedule, categorized the records in question as temporary and, as a result, handled the disposition properly. Mayer commented that this case underscored the challenges NARA faces with public relations. The permanent/temporary record dichotomy can be nuanced.
In response to Mayer’s comments about FBI records, Immerman inquired as to whether the designation of permanent and temporary records is done at the point of origin. Langbart responded, based on his long experience performing records appraisal. All agencies, he continued, must have a records management program. Agencies develop disposition schedules, based on the needs and understanding of the records, and submit them to the National Archives for approval. NARA's appraisal archivists review the disposition schedules and make recommendations whether or not to approve or amend the draft schedules. Once other units in the National Archives have appropriately reviewed the appraisal archivist’s recommendations, the Archivist of the United States approves the schedule and the agency implements it. Fischer noted that, at one point, no fees existed for the storage of agency records; this is no longer true.
Langbart added that archivists can recommend destruction of records; most records are either scheduled for transfer to the National Archives at an appropriate age or destroyed when an agency no longer needs the records. The bottom line, he continued, is that decision-making does rest with the National Archives. Responding to a comment by Peterson, Langbart further explained that a requirement exists that any disposition schedule that designates records as temporary or reduces the retention period of temporary records must be published in the Federal Register. Any member of the public can ask for a copy of the disposition schedule and appraisal, unless the schedule is classified (even if a schedule cannot be released, some unclassified information about the temporary records covered by the schedule must be released to the public to enable comments). Peterson interjected that she had recommended that the American Historical Association (AHA) monitor the publication of disposition schedules—designating certain records as temporary—in the Federal Register. The AHA, however, had not devoted energy to this effort. Fischer noted that some legal scholars had requested these schedules. Immerman suggested that the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) committee responsible for archival records matters might assume this responsibility. Langbart responded that in his years of appraisal work, he would estimate that over 99 percent of the schedules were not requested by the public. When interested members of the public did request schedules, the requestor usually did not respond with comments.
Fischer noted that the statute requires agencies to transfer records at 30 years; records do not have to be transferred before that point. Langbart added that not all agencies transfer records at 30 years, most notably the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other intelligence agencies. Mayer commented that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) holds on to its active records and does not store these records at a FRC.
Langbart drew the Committee’s attention back to the records lifecycle slide. He highlighted the different steps involved in processing unclassified and classified records. For classified records, the NDC needs to perform its work before archival processing can occur. Fischer noted the work already undertaken by the NDC to move through the backlog. Don McIlwain added that he would provide an overview during the afternoon session on the steps the NDC had taken to ensure that another backlog would not develop. He noted that there were several “lessons learned” as a result of collaboration with agency partners.
The Committee then discussed issues related to records of concern.
Mayer also underscored that NARA has to engage in public education in order to assist researchers in making the most out of their visits. Langbart stressed that there had been great efforts in this area, notably a revised NARA website relating to foreign affairs records. He had also written articles for Passport (the SHAFR newsletter) about the various types and formats of foreign policy records held at NARA and on research tips.
The Committee then adjourned for a brief break.
Immerman called the meeting to order at 10:47 a.m. and asked Mayer to continue with his presentation. Mayer began to sketch his vision for Research Services, noting that it would be useful if the Committee provided him with additional input. He then posed a series of four questions relating to the relevancy of archives in general; the role of facilities and technology; investments in staff skills; and relevancy of archival collections. In response, Immerman inquired as to the level of resource support NARA enjoyed in support of its objectives. He noted that it was sobering that young researchers often do not know how to use NARA’s holdings.
Belmonte, commenting that Peterson had circulated a survey that discussed NARA staff morale, added that morale might impact productivity. Mayer acknowledged that, upon arriving at NARA, he was somewhat surprised at the low morale. He added that a portion of his work has been focused on connecting with NARA staff and helping them meet their objectives. The current sequestration threat has not helped. Mayer stressed that, by its very nature, NARA is a public service; staff must be included in improving NARA’s connection with the public.
Belmonte referenced the impending “explosion” of records. Given the reduction in staff and loss of subject matter expertise, who would be able to process and describe the records? Reduced staffing and expertise would become more of an issue if NARA concentrated resources and records along a regional model. Mayer expressed agreement, adding that NARA had to improve its connections with educational institutions, given that each records center is located near major universities. NARA needs to be able to solicit advice from an advisory committee-like body in order to develop programs designed to reach these communities. Herschler indicated that in the past, NARA did have an advisory committee.
Immerman then sketched a worst case scenario for the Archives, involving an expanding universe of records and an inability to meet statutory requirements. Delays in making documentation available ran the risk of public impatience. In addition, reduced staff numbers might adversely impact the research experience at the Archives. Immerman asserted that this picture is not one that the Committee wishes to paint; he asked Mayer if NARA had developed any plans or strategies for mitigating this outcome. Langbart stressed that archivists care deeply about the records and about helping researchers get to the records they want to see. Mayer interjected that the NARA leadership is very concerned about the future. Immerman noted that a short window existed for instituting change; he inquired as to the catalyst that would make people take notice of a possible worst case scenario. Assuming that NARA is working with a zero sum budget, what additional personnel would be required? Mayer responded that the Archives, in part, had to create sustainable structures to improve service, better prioritize where certain work needs to occur, and receive input from the other agencies and the public. He asserted that the work ahead was not simple. Within NARA, trust had to be built.
At this point Langbart reminded the Committee that because of staff limitations, the textual processing unit has of late dealt with only one set of agency records per year. This year’s focus is on Department of Justice records. Resources are generally unavailable to permit the processing of records from more than one agency at a given time. Referencing the previous discussion on outreach to communities, Langbart stated that he had given several talks to university history departments about NARA’s holdings and strategies for researching in these records. In the current climate, NARA could no longer fund this type of travel; a history department would need to absorb travel costs if it wanted NARA to conduct this type of outreach. Mayer added that he wanted to connect several New York universities with the Alexander Hamilton Customs House. He stressed that he would welcome faculty advice and reiterated his belief that an advisory committee would provide useful advice to NARA.
Robert McMahon noted that the Committee, at the December meeting, had expressed its hope that NARA would produce a plan for meeting the 25-year line, adding that NARA had to be able to state the progress being made in meeting statutory requirements. Mayer responded that he needs to work with the NDC in developing such a plan. McMahon noted that it would be essential for the Committee to receive a copy of this plan prior to the drafting of the Committee’s annual report. If no such plan existed by that time, the Committee would note this reality in the annual report. Mayer responded that the Committee had a reasonable expectation but added that the process takes time. Herschler commented that the report needed to include information about both the declassification and opening of records. McMahon expressed his belief that NARA would develop a “clear, achievable plan.”
The session adjourned at 11:40 a.m.
Review of Department of State Documents
Immerman called the session to order at 12:40 p.m. The Committee then proceeded to review Department of State documents withheld for declassification.
At 1:35 p.m. Shenberger, McIlwain, and Proctor briefed the Committee with updated information about the National Declassification Center. Shenberger added that the NDC had used the appendix—contained in Immerman’s January letter—to structure the presentation. She then provided an overview of the NDC’s organization, consisting of 68 NARA staff members organized into four divisions—Evaluation/Special Projects, Indexing/Declassification, Production/Workflow, and FOIA/MDR—a training unit, an IT unit, and a unit supporting the National Security Council staff. The NDC is an example of interagency cooperation at its best
Turning to a slide depicting the key processing steps, McIlwain noted that one of the questions posed by the Committee related to the indexing process, specifically, why there was less information than in the past. McIlwain then outlined the key processing steps for indexing classified documents. Documents are tabbed by the originator for exemption, referral and exclusion. Some of the previous reviews used non-standard tabs; more recent reviews use the Standard Form (SF)–715 Declassification Review Tab. The document data is entered in the Archives Document Review Redaction System (ADRReS) database. ADRReS assigns a unique document identification number, records the metadata about the document, and lists the agencies with equities and allows for decision tracking. Tabbed documents are removed, a withdrawal notice is generated, and the tab is annotated with the unique document identification number.
As for the move toward an abbreviated indexing process, McIlwain indicated that such a process allowed for a greater throughput in meeting the backlog reduction goal: capturing fewer data points increases productivity. He noted that, prior to the pre-streamlining process, the NDC processed and finalized 283,885 pages per month; now the NDC can process and finalize 3.2 million pages, resulting in an eleven-fold increase in pages per month. “It’s not a perfect world,” he concluded, “but the NDC’s goal has to be meeting the President’s directive.”
Immerman asked McIlwain if any other information, in addition to the unique document number, appears on the withdrawal sheet. Shenberger responded that the inclusion of additional information on the sheet would slow the process, given the time it would take to input this information on each tab. It is more advantageous to reduce the amount of data for any given document in order to expedite processing. Langbart noted that the reference and processing staff has expressed their concerns about abbreviated indexing; fewer data points exist to help archivists get documents in the right location. Peterson inquired as to the possibility of eventually entering the more detailed data on the withdrawal sheet; Shenberger answered that at some point, presumably once the backlog is resolved, the NDC will stand up a team charged with adding this information to the sheets.
Shenberger and McIlwain reinforced the benefits of abbreviated indexing: moving more pages to the open stacks, providing the NDC with a “real chance” to meet the President’s directive, and reducing the size of FOIA requests. They also drew attention to the drawbacks: providing less information on the withdrawal notice, omitting agency referral information, increasing the number of FOIA requests, and deferring work to FOIA or IRC staff. The key factor is the unique document identification number, appearing on the tab, withdrawal notice, withdrawal folder, FOIA case and in the ADRRes database, which allows for the tracking of the document through the declassification process. It greatly improves accountability.
Peterson then asked a question about series titles: if a series has not been processed, how would one know that a particular document belonged in a specific series? McIlwain responded that one would rely on the initial description of the records. Langbart added that this constituted one of the problems associated with abbreviated indexing and declassification review before archival processing. McIlwain noted that the process is imperfect; collaboration between and within NARA units is essential. Fischer added that the Department of State, in the case of electronic records, provides NARA with withdrawal cards.
Discussion then focused on the accession of Department of State records. Proctor noted that NARA has received 6,798,737 pages since January 1, 2010. She added that 11,604,998 pages of Department records stored at the WNRC were scheduled to move to Archives II between 2014 and 2017. Herschler asked if the number reflected only textual records; Proctor responded that the figure represented textual records and did not include cables or special media. Proctor indicated that the Department of State and other agencies, in an attempt to prevent a future backlog, had started to use NA Form 14130—a classified records transfer checklist. McIlwain indicated that a key goal is to get records managers and declassification specialists to talk to one another before records are accessioned by NARA. Fischer noted that IPS had taken the classified records transfer checklist as a baseline and had developed a new electronic form. Jeff Charlston expressed his belief that the relevant information would be captured at the Department.
Immerman informed Shenberger that Mayer planned to work with her in order to provide the Committee with a plan for meeting the 25-year line and preventing a future backlog. Given resource constraints, Immerman continued, what plans can be developed? He hoped that Mayer and Shenberger could furnish this information to the Committee to enable it to meet its mandate. He asserted that the problem would only get worse, and that the Committee wanted to assist in developing strategies to deal with current and future issues.
Immerman adjourned the session at 2 p.m.
Closed Session, February 26
Report on “Orphan” Volumes
Immerman called the session to order at 9:15 a.m. He drew attention to a Washington Post article on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) taught by University of Virginia historian and former Committee member Philip Zelikow, and then asked Historian Stephen Randolph and General Editor Adam Howard for their report on “orphan” volumes.
Randolph began his remarks by explaining the definition of an orphan volume: a volume researched and/or partially compiled by a historian who has left the office. He commented that when he first arrived in the Office in October 2011, he took note of the number of historians who were working on these volumes. It has been a huge effort by everyone in the Office to resolve the various problems associated with orphan volumes, a process he termed a “modern odyssey.” He drew the Committee’s attention to a chart that depicted the status of each volume.
Howard then commented that the Office had discussed these volumes with the Committee in the past and reminded the members that when a compiler leaves the office before completing an assigned volume, there are numerous issues that must be resolved by the new compiler and the reviewers. These issues contribute to additional work for the declassification coordinators and editors. Howard noted that the management team had reassigned all the current orphan volumes. He cautioned that while some attrition would be expected, the Office did not anticipate that orphan volumes would pose the same problems, as they had in the recent past.
Susan Perdue asked if the Office had thought of ways to ensure continuity between the original compiler and the new compiler; for example, maintaining relationships with former employees to ensure that their knowledge is not lost. She added that a Content Management System (CMS) could capture this institutional knowledge and avoid “reinventing the wheel” when a new compiler inherited a volume. Randolph indicated that the Office had discussed these sorts of approaches, noting that it would be important to maintain continuity.
Discussion then ensued concerning specific orphan volumes and the challenges associated with each.
Drawing the Committee’s attention to the orphan volume chart, Herschler underscored the fact that most of the orphan volumes had moved into the declassification and editing process. Zeiler asked if publishing these volumes as electronic-only volumes had the potential to accelerate the publication process. Carl Ashley responded that expedited publishing, in part, drove the decision 10 years ago to designate some volumes as electronic-only ones. However, the process of creating and editing electronic files and posting them to the website did not result in the significant time savings anticipated earlier. The Office then decided to compile and produce electronic-only volumes in the same fashion as their print counterparts.
Howard emphasized that the Office must avoid mass attrition to prevent such a situation from occurring in the future. Immerman added that, in the case of subsequent orphan volumes, the institutional memory associated with each needs to be transmitted to the compiler inheriting the volume. Peterson stressed the necessity of conducting exit interviews when a compiler leaves the Office. Randolph admitted the complications surrounding these sorts of transitions, noting that the Office can expect that historians will leave in the future for other opportunities; the Office has a responsibility to ensure a smoother transition. McMahon noted that the departure of any given compiler creates an orphan volume. Herschler agreed with McMahon’s assessment but added that, within a short time, the current tranche of orphan volumes will be reduced. Randolph interjected that this critical examination of the orphan volume problem was a good exercise and reiterated the desire to put in place a transition plan. Herschler added that of the volumes currently in declassification, only a limited number would encounter significant declassification problems.
Immerman adjourned the session at 9:45 a.m.
Open Session, February 26
Approval of the Record of the December 2012 Meeting
Immerman called the meeting to order at 10:20 a.m. He welcomed members of the public and then asked for approval of the December 2012 meeting minutes, which was received via unanimous consent.
Immerman then introduced Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Dana Smith. Smith noted that Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Michael Hammer was currently in Kazakhstan; on his behalf, she welcomed the Committee and thanked the members for their efforts. She indicated that learning about the Office of the Historian and its various functions was one of the best parts of her job. Smith added that the Office has a “huge fan” in the Office of the Secretary of State. She then thanked Randolph for his leadership—both at the Office and Bureau levels. Immerman thanked the Bureau of Public Affairs for its support and assistance over the last several years. Randolph added that everything that the Office has accomplished recently is due to the support extended by the Bureau leadership. Peterson emphasized the importance of the Foreign Relations series to foreign audiences. Smith concurred, noting that she had attended a dinner at the Embassy of Qatar recently and showed attendees a Bureau of Public Affairs organizational chart. The participants took note of the existence of the Office.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Randolph began his report by noting that since the December meeting the Office had hired a contract editor. Resources were a concern, given the threat of sequestration, although he expressed confidence that the Office work will not be disrupted in the event of sequestration. Smith interjected that the work would continue. Randolph commented that the projected Office move to new quarters on Navy Hill would take place during the fall of 2014.
Randolph then discussed the support the Office extended to the Office of the Secretary of State. Secretary Kerry’s transition team had reached out to the Office and requested preparation of several studies; the Office responded well and quickly. It had also provided assistance in advance of Secretary Kerry’s speech at the University of Virginia. Randolph continued by noting the extensive work done in the area of social media, digitization, and historical briefings. He thanked those historians involved in these efforts.
Status Report by the General Editor
Howard noted that since the December meeting, the Office had published 1 volume: Iran–Iraq, 1973–1976. Four volumes had been submitted to the Declassification and Publishing Division. “It’s always wonderful to hear positive reports,” Immerman responded, suggesting that there had been a “noticeable difference” in the tenor of these reports over the last several years.
Status Report by the Deputy Historian
Herschler reported that 1 volume had completed declassification in December 2012, bringing the total to 11 volumes declassified during calendar year (CY) 2012. In 2013, the Office finished the declassification of 1 volume and verified 2 volumes with the Central Intelligence Agency. Herschler anticipated that the Office would declassify 10 volumes in 2013, marking the fourth straight year of declassifying 10 or more volumes. In assessing progress over the last 3 years, he noted that balance had been achieved across all aspects of the series except for editing and publication, and the Office had taken steps to balance that backlog in the next two years.
Turning to outreach, Herschler drew the Committee’s attention to the outreach activities described in the Newsletter. The Office enjoyed an active presence at the recent AHA meeting in New Orleans. Ashley, Joe Wicentowski, and Mandy Chalou took part in a session focused on electronic media; Aaron Marrs took part in a roundtable on federal history careers; and Nathaniel Smith presented a paper on U.S. narcotics policy. Historians working the Office’s exhibit booth disseminated educational products, discussed the Foreign Relations series and other Office products, and conducted informational interviews. Visitors to the booth expressed appreciation for the Foreign Relations series, especially the Office’s efforts to make the series available in a variety of formats, including e-books. Howard added that volumes dating to 1952 are now available as e-books; he noted that many graduate students used the volumes in this format.
Chalou then answered several questions relating to the usability of FRUS e-books. Immerman commented that it would be interesting to see over time if the e-books will be incorporated into university courses.
Peterson asked Howard about the decision to divide the American Republics, 1973–1976 volume into two parts. Howard responded that he is in the process of determining the narrative break between the two parts. Immerman noted that the volume posed a difficult intellectual challenge, adding that the two parts would not be published simultaneously, to which Howard agreed. Immerman drew attention to the Office’s increased interactions with the CIA and with the Department of Defense in order to facilitate the declassification process. Howard added that Joint Historian Michael McCoyer should receive a lot of credit for fostering these relationships.
Returning to the issue of e-books, James Wilson encouraged the Committee members to adopt e-books in their classes. Smith added that it would be helpful for the Office to produce a handout on e-books for the Department’s Diplomats-in-Residence to use in educating their colleagues about the Foreign Relations series.
Status of Declassification of Department of State Records
Immerman asked David Adamson to report on the status of the Department’s electronic and paper review. Adamson circulated a chart showing the status of the items in the Central Foreign Policy File (CFPF) awaiting transfer to the National Archives. Beginning with the electronic review, he indicated that IPS had completed its review of the State Archiving System (SAS) classified and Limited Official Use (LOU) electronic cables through 1987, as well as the electronic P-reel indices through 1988. IPS finished its review of the 1987 classified and LOU cables in September 2012; reviewers are now working on the 1988 classified cables. In December 2012, the Department transferred to NARA the balance of the SAS electronic documents for the 1970s: the 1978 and 1979 electronic cables (406,266 and 442,113 cables, respectively) and the 1973 and 1976–1979 P-reel indices (about 400,000 documents). IPS continues to work with NARA to devise plans for the transfer of records from 1980 and beyond. IPS anticipates that the Department will transfer the 1980 records by the end of 2013; the limiting factor is the ability to have the P-and N-reel microfilm printed by the CIA and reviewed.
Adamson then turned to the status of the paper review. IPS continues to review the 1986–1990 record block. During CY 2102, IPS reviewed 2.6 million pages, bringing the total number of pages reviewed in the record block to approximately 4.3 million pages. IPS has reviewed over 320,500 pages to date during 2013. At the NDC, IPS completed 2.7 million pages of Kyl–Lott review. In addition, IPS has reviewed over 233,000 pages of Remote Archives Capture (RAC) referrals from the Presidential Libraries through the NDC and 195,500 pages of paper referrals from the libraries.
Finally, Adamson commented that IPS is in the process of having the CIA print out the 1980 and 1981 P-and N-reel microfilm and is reviewing these records when they arrive at the Department. He explained that the records are first digitized and then printed out on paper. IPS is continuing to explore ways to review the material in its digitized form.
Immerman asked Adamson if the Committee should “feel good” about the IPS report. Charlston, in reference to the digitization of the P-and N-reel microfilm, noted that he had participated in a successful meeting with the CIA. The task is to figure out how to complete this project. Peterson asked if the digitized copy would be transferred to NARA; Langbart indicated that it would be the reference copy but not the copy of record.
Peterson then asked about the objective of meeting a 30-year line for transfer of Department of State records. Charlston indicated that the Department is trying to hold the line, but that it cannot keep up with the 25-year review due to a lack of personnel. The current 5-year block will take 10 years to review. Herschler asked Charlston if he meant, by “we,” just Department of State or all agencies involved in declassification review. Charlston indicated that the other agencies review the documents at the NDC, according to a queue. James McAllister asked Charlston about the number of personnel needed. Charlston responded that IPS needed another 10 to 13 WAE reviewers. Immerman explained that the Committee planned to capture as much information and data as possible to aid in drafting its annual report. It appeared, he noted, that for the Department to address this issue, it required additional resources. Zeiler asked if the Committee was allowed to comment on issues beyond those associated with the Office; Herschler reminded the Committee that its mandate included declassification and opening at NARA of all Department of State records. Zeiler then inquired if other entities would be writing reports on these issues. Charlston asserted that the entire federal government is aware of the resource issue, including the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) and the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP). McMahon commented that the basic problem is that the 25-year systematic declassification review is an unfunded mandate, government-wide. Charlston noted that the systematic review requirement is stipulated in Executive Order 13526. McMahon responded that there is not much concern about the consequences for delays in completing systematic declassification review. Immerman stressed that the Committee and the Department needed to collaborate on stressing the point that additional resources are needed.
Immerman then opened the floor for public comment. Bill Burr indicated that he had been in contact with researchers interested in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) records. Burr noted that no procedures or provisions exist for the declassification review of these documents. He had sent a report to Immerman outlining the situation. Burr asked if the Office and the Committee would engage on this issue. Immerman indicated that the topic would be discussed in Executive Session.
Immerman adjourned the meeting at 10:55 a.m., and the Committee went into Executive Session.