Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation September 10-11, 2012
Open Session, September 10
Approval of the Record of the June 2012 Meeting
Committee Chair Richard Immerman called the meeting to order at 11:01 a.m. He noted that Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Mike Hammer was out of town and that he would be represented by the Bureau’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Media Engagement Valerie Crites Fowler, who would join the meeting later. Immerman asked for the approval of the minutes of the June meeting, which was achieved via unanimous consent. He then congratulated General Editor Adam Howard, noting that this was the first Committee meeting since his appointment.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Historian Stephen Randolph began his remarks by reiterating the appointment of Howard as General Editor and noted that David Nickles had been appointed Chief of the Middle East and Asia Division, and Stephanie Eckroth and Thomas Faith had been appointed to fill positions in the Declassification and Publishing Division. Randolph also commented that the Office was in the process of hiring of a third, additional editor.
Randolph noted that Colby Prevost had returned to the Office after an extended medical leave. He expressed the Office’s pleasure at his return and thanked Margaret Morrissey for her service to the Office during Prevost’s absence. He additionally thanked Mircea Munteanu and Dean Weatherhead for performing some of Prevost’s duties on an interim basis.
He then referenced a recent outreach effort, recounting that the Office had, in July, hosted an 8-person delegation from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Military History Institute for a discussion of the respective functions and programs undertaken by the respective offices.
Randolph addressed the Office’s move to new space located at Navy Hill, reporting that an issue between the General Services Administration (GSA) and M had been resolved. Renovations to the space were expected to commence before the end of the year. The Office is scheduled to move into the new space in April 2014.
Concluding with a discussion of digital initiatives, Randolph mentioned that two members of the Office would address both progress in making the FRUS series available in new formats and efforts to publicize the Office’s work though social media.
Status Reports by the General Editor and Deputy Historian
David Herschler reported that 5 volumes have so far completed declassification during calendar year (CY) 2012. The goal is for a total of 12 volumes to be declassified by the end of 2012, which would be a near record. It would mark the second consecutive year of declassifying more than 10 volumes. He indicated that Howard would provide some additional information about the status of the series during his report.
Crites Fowler then joined the meeting. After an introduction by Randolph, Crites Fowler expressed her enthusiasm for the Office, stressing that a good working relationship between the Bureau of Public Affairs and the Committee is essential.
Herschler continued with his report, commenting that the Office’s outreach efforts during the summer included the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) meeting, held in Hartford and Storrs, Connecticut in late June. Many historians in the Office participated in the conference, either by chairing or commenting on panels or giving presentations. Several historians are also teaching university courses this fall. Herschler indicated that the Committee members could review the Newsletter for a complete listing of professional activities.
Status Report by the General Editor
Howard reported that 2 Foreign Relations volumes in the Richard M. Nixon–Gerald R. Ford sub-series, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976 and Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1974–1976, had been published since the June Committee meeting. He highlighted the fact that the Arab-Israeli Dispute volume includes maps, which are the first maps produced with the assistance of the Department’s Office of the Geographer. Howard added that he hoped that the Office would continue such a relationship with the Office of the Geographer in the future. He also noted that 6 volumes had been submitted to the Declassification and Publishing Division and anticipated that 6 more volumes would be submitted by the end of CY 2012. Immerman indicated that it was very gratifying to see this uptick in FRUS productivity.
Report on Social Media Outreach
Joe Wicentowski delivered a presentation outlining the Office’s efforts to harness digital technology to make FRUS available in a wide variety of new formats. He stated that 7 volumes from the Dwight D. Eisenhower sub-series had been made available in e-book and mobi formats since the previous Committee meeting, bringing the total number of volumes in these formats to 27. He highlighted recent efforts to convert a John F. Kennedy sub-series microfiche supplement on the Cuban Missile Crisis into a more widely consumable digital format. This effort, designed to coincide with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the crisis, might one day be applied to other microfiche supplements, which have languished out of the reach of historians as a result of technological impediments. Wicentowski mentioned that the conversion process had revealed a number of challenges; certain tables and other heavily formatted aspects of the volumes did not always render naturally in e-book or mobi formats. However, the Office’s e-book working group would continue to pursue ways in which the volumes could be rendered in a legible manner.
Wicentowski then updated the Committee on the various ways the Office was looking to distribute digital content. Negotiations with the Government Printing Office (GPO) yielded a soon-to-be signed agreement which will make FRUS e-books available through six major channels: Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble.com, Google Play, Ingram Digital Editions Wholesale, Ingram MyiLibrary, and Overdrive.com. He suggested the latter three methods of distribution might be particularly successful for the series, given these avenues will make FRUS e-books available to public and academic libraries around the world.
Wicentowski then noted that visits to the HO website had slowed over the summer, as schools were out of session. The site still boasted an impressive 195,000 unique visitors and 740,000 page views over the quarter. He then provided a breakdown of site visitors; some 60 percent of the visitors hailed from the United States, while the remainder came from abroad. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, Germany, The Philippines, Italy, China, Japan, and France were the top sources of visitors over the period. The top cities included Washington D.C., New York, Sydney, London, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Singapore, Manila, Brisbane, New Delhi, San Francisco, and Toronto.
Mandy Chalou discussed the Office’s social media outreach efforts. She noted the success of the recently-established Office Twitter feed, currently used to promote e-book releases and Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) opportunities in the Office. Drilling down into the number, she observed that 41–45 tweets had been released thus far; the account had an impressive 858 followers and boasted a robust Klout score of 47. Tweets related to the VSFS yielded 1,500 clicks, while tweets promoting a Department-wide effort to extol economic statehood produced 1,000 clicks, further growing traffic to resources on the HO website and furthering the mission of the Department.
Crites Fowler praised the Office’s effort to promote economic statehood week, noting HO efforts were innovative and successful.
A discussion among members of the Committee, Chalou, and Wicentowski ensued concerning the use of technology to disseminate Office products and promote Office activities and initiatives.
Status of Declassification of Department of State Records
Susan Weetman introduced Bill Fischer to the Committee, adding that he is the new Chief of the IPS Systematic Review Program Division.
Weetman then circulated a chart that documented the current status of the Department of State 25-year review of the Central Foreign Policy File (CFPF). She announced that IPS had completed its review of the State Archiving System (SAS) classified electronic cables and Limited Official Use (LOU) cables through 1986 and was currently reviewing the classified and LOU cables for 1987. In March, IPS transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the 1978–1979 hard copy elements of the CFPF, consisting of D-reel microfilm, P-reel microfilm, P-reel printouts, N-reel microfilm, N-reel printouts, and the Bulky Paper files. IPS transferred the TS paper files for 1977–1979 to NARA in May.
IPS is ready to transfer the 1979 unclassified, LOU, and classified cables to NARA once the Department of Energy (DOE) completes its review under the provisions of the Kyl–Lott Amendment. DOE has promised to have this review completed by the end of September. IPS is currently finalizing arrangements to have the 1980–1981 P-reel microfilm converted to paper. Once this conversion is completed, IPS will begin reviewing this material.
Weetman further noted that IPS is continuing to review the 1986–1990 record block. So far this calendar year, IPS has reviewed over 1.8 million pages, bringing the total number of pages reviewed for the record block to 3.9 million. She noted that IPS has also completed over 111,000 pages of Remote Archives Capture (RAC) referrals from the Presidential Libraries and 1.2 million pages of Kyl–Lott review at the National Declassification Center (NDC).
Bill Burr inquired about the delay at NARA for releasing cables. It was explained that record blocks are released by year, so cables cannot be released separately from the paper files. Robert McMahon asked for clarification concerning the records currently available at NARA. David Langbart responded that the CFPF through 1976 are available for researchers. Immerman questioned whether, with the growing amount of material, NARA was keeping up with the current amounts or if it was falling further behind in processing. Langbart responded that per the Committee’s expressed position, NARA is making the Central Foreign Policy File available in year blocks, not piecemeal. It takes a minimum of 6 months to prepare the records for online use and that with current contractor transitioning this process was slightly delayed. Fischer added that the IPS goal was to have all 1970s materials transferred to NARA by end of this calendar year, depending on the DOE review. Langbart commented that 1973–1974 cables were online in March 2006; 1975 online in 2007; 1976 online in February 2010. DOE review is delaying further processing of Department cables.
McMahon indicated that a gulf existed between the conclusion of the IPS review and the availability of records at the National Archives. He commented that the 1977–1979 Department records might be available for researchers by 2013. Noting that records access issues also fell within the Committee’s purview, he expressed his belief that the process was frustratingly slow. He added that a researcher could go to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta and research in the presidential records but that the researcher could not view many of the Department’s records for that same time period. This had the potential to distort the historical record. McMahon insisted that records transfer should be moving to a 30-year or 25-year line; he inquired as to how the Department and NARA were moving to meet a 25-year mandate. Immerman added that treading water on this issue would constitute good news, reiterating that the Department had made good progress on the FRUS series but more needed to be accomplished on records issues. In response to McMahon’s questions,Langbart indicated that while work on the Central Foreign Policy File is moving forward, recently accessioned decentralized files are not being addressed by the NDC as they work the backlog. He noted that NARA also must conduct a review for otherwise restricted information, such as privacy information, and that there are limited resources for this work.
Crites Fowler asked about potential issues relating to the processing of email and the introduction of newer technologies. She inquired as to the extent of efforts to educate Department employees on records preservation and retrieval. Fischer, noting that records management is progressive, commented on the State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART) system and records management initiatives working to bolster this process. Immerman suggested that the Committee should schedule sometime in the future to discuss this issue with Department principals if possible.
Closed Session, September 10
Efforts to meet the 30-year publication line
Immerman called the afternoon session to order at 1:45 p.m. The Committee discussed the plan for upcoming George H.W. Bush administration volumes with the General Editor and staff.
Committee Discussion with the CIA Publication Review Board
The Committee discussed publication procedures with the CIA Publication Review Board.
Closed Session, September 11
Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives
McMahon called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. and asked Don McIlwain for his report. McIlwain began by referencing the latest NDC Open Forum, held at Archives I on August 29, during which declassification review issues were discussed. The ultimate goal is to stop the “merry-go-round” of multiple reviews and re-reviews. Regarding the backlog, 92 percent (400 million pages) of the material has had initial assessment; of that material, 50 percent (191 million pages) of the records have “passed” this initial assessment. Most of the material that has not been passed requires Kyl–Lott review. McMahon asked what years the backlog covered, and McIlwain responded that it runs from the late 1940s through the 1980s. The Department of State is actively involved in page-by-page review; there are currently seven State reviewers in the stacks of Archives II working in tandem with NARA staff on this issue. McIlwain predicted that by 2014 there will no longer be a backlog. However, to avoid another backlog, there needs to be more interagency communication and systematic use of the Classified Records Transfer Checklist (NA Form 14130), which prompts agencies to indicate whether records have been reviewed for declassification, whether they have Kyl–Lott certification, and whether documents have been tabbed for exemption.
Langbart provided several updates. The ongoing Agency for International Development (AID) processing project (RG 286) will be completed this year and a quality review of United States Information Agency (USIA) records (RG 306) is ongoing. In response to a question from the Committee at the June meeting, he noted that there have been over 2 million successful queries of the on-line Department of State records on the Access to Archival Database (AAD) system. Langbart also noted the conclusion of the Katyn Forest declassification project. This project resulted in the compilation of a comprehensive finding aid that includes holdings in NARA and the relevant presidential libraries.
Langbart then presented to the Committee the report it requested on NARA’s work to reintegrate formerly restricted telegrams that are now fully releasable into the larger body of declassified and released records. He noted that NARA recognizes the issue and agrees that it needs to make the formerly withdrawn and now fully-declassified and released telegrams available to researchers, preferably online. This will not be a simple task because there are a number of classification, technical, and contract challenges that first need to be resolved. NARA is committed to working through the issues and making the fully declassified and releasable telegrams available online. The agency is exploring a couple of approaches towards meeting this goal, neither of which has reached a level of maturity that warrants discussion at this time. NARA does not expect work to be completed for at least a year, and, depending on the solution, perhaps longer.
In response to Thomas Zeiler’s follow-up question on the results of the Katyn Forest project, Langbart noted that the material has filled a few historical gaps, provided new versions of some previously-declassified material, and identified records from the military and congressional investigations; the finding aid constituted most substantive result.
Fischer distributed a handout in order to provide context for the overall declassification process at the Department of State. He reviewed IPS’s overall mission, including the 25-year mandate, as well as the branches within IPS. IPS expects to meet the 25-year target for electronic review of 1987 classified and LOU material by the end of CY 2012. IPS is a bit behind with the review of unclassified electronic material, mainly due to lack of resources and competing priorities. IPS is meeting 50 percent of its goal for the 1986–1990 file block. IPS normally reviews the CFPF on a year-by-year basis; it hopes to complete review of the 1980–1981 CFPF by the end of CY 2013. IPS also anticipates completing the review of 5 FRUS volumes by the end of CY 2012. It plans to review 6 FRUS volumes in CY 2013.
Fischer explained that the main reason why IPS is behind stems from an increasing workload in a time of steady resources, in addition to DOE’s Kyl–Lott review of cables. IPS is still waiting for completion of DOE’s review of the 1978 and 1979 cables and 1976 and 1977 P-reel indices. NARA prefers not to receive the material until DOE has completed the Kyl–Lott review. McMahon questioned if the DOE review was mandated by law. Fisher explained that the Department’s role in how the DOE quality assurance review is facilitated is not mandatory by law, but DOE does have the right to conduct the quality assurance review. He further noted that the current arrangement suits DOE and NARA, but does not work for the Department and would like NDC involvement and responsibility for the DOE quality assurance review in the future. McIlwain stated that the length of time it has taken DOE to review a hundred thousand cables is unacceptable. McMahon asked whether or not DOE could be mandated to move more quickly. Nancy Smith responded that the difficulty results from competing mandates, since DOE must comply with Kyl–Lott as well as the 25-year review under E.O. 13526. Langbart noted that under Kyl–Lott, DOE may choose what material it reviews and when. McIlwain stated that NARA should engage with DOE representatives and persuade them that the CFPF documents are important and need to be reviewed on a priority basis. McMahon suggested that the Committee invite a DOE representative to its next meeting.
Jeff Charlston outlined the status of the paper review effort. The Department of State received an excellent rating from DOE for its review; DOE’s re-review of the material found only one example of Restricted Data (RD) or Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) in a million reviewed documents. He indicated that the paper review program will meet its 25- year target this year. While microfilm is more difficult, the volume of microfilm peaks in 1987 and then falls off dramatically; for 1997 there are only 7,500 pages of microfilm.
McMahon then asked Smith for her report. She mentioned that the Office of the Historian and the Office of Presidential Libraries had completed a renewed subvention agreement for FY 2013, which facilitates the Office’s research at the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library. She indicated that historians and Reagan Library archivists are working well together. Smith noted that this would be her last Committee meeting, as she anticipated retiring in either November or January. She referenced attending Committee meetings in the late 1980s, noting that few of the historians who were on staff at that time remained, with the exception of Herschler. At that time, Smith recalled, the Office of Presidential Libraries became aware of complaints from researchers that FRUS historians were putting a strain on resources at the Kennedy Presidential Library. As a result, the Office and the Office of Presidential Libraries negotiated the first in a series of subvention agreements. The Kennedy Library subvention agreement led to additional agreements covering research at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at Archives II, and, presently, the Reagan Library. Smith stressed that the Office of Presidential Libraries has always been a steadfast supporter of the Foreign Relations series. She commented that presidential records had become the most significant component of most FRUS volumes. She noted that the greatest future problem for FRUS researchers will be electronic records, giving a comparison between the amount of electronic records generated during the William J. Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations. Following her retirement, John Laster would serve as primary point of contact between the Office of Presidential Libraries and the Office of the Historian. Herschler, on behalf of the entire Office, thanked Smith for her many years of support for the Foreign Relations series.
Report on Policy Studies and Special Projects
After introductory remarks by Randolph and Amy Garrett, Aiyaz Husain and Seth Center gave presentations on their respective policy-supportive research projects. Husain outlined the objectives of his project: to provide information for policymakers on a critical event as well as to provide a historical record of the event for future institutional history. Husain also discussed the documentary challenges and status of records and recordkeeping. Center’s presentation on research emphasized these points as well, offering salty anecdotes and witty rejoinders. Bill McAllister offered further comments on the utility of the projects for both policymakers and for the future documenting of this period in the FRUS series.
Question and Answer and discussion followed, mainly speculation on the retention of various forms of electronic records. Zeiler closed with a question on how Policy Studies/Special Projects study topics are chosen, followed by responses from Garrett, Bill McAllister, Center, Husain, and Kathleen Rasmussen.
McMahon adjourned the meeting at 11:30 a.m., and the Committee went into Executive Session.