June 2020

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation June 15, 2020

Minutes

Committee Members

  • Richard Immerman, Chairman
  • Mary Dudziak
  • James Goldgeier
  • William Inboden
  • Adriane Lentz-Smith
  • Melani McAlister
  • Susan Perdue
  • Trudy Peterson

Office of the Historian

  • Kristin Ahlberg
  • Carl Ashley
  • Margaret Ball
  • Forrest Barnum
  • Sarah Berndt
  • Josh Botts
  • Myra Burton
  • Tiffany Cabrera
  • Mandy Chalou
  • Elizabeth Charles
  • Thomas Faith
  • David Geyer
  • Renée Goings
  • Charles Hawley
  • Kerry Hite
  • Adam Howard
  • Aiyaz Husain
  • William McAllister
  • Michael McCoyer
  • Christopher Morrison
  • Mircea Munteanu
  • David Nickles
  • Paul Pitman
  • Alexander Poster
  • Kathleen Rasmussen
  • Zury Reeves
  • Matthew Regan
  • Amanda Ross
  • Seth Rotramel
  • Daniel Rubin
  • Nathaniel Smith
  • Melissa Jane Taylor
  • Chris Tudda
  • Dean Weatherhead
  • Joseph Wicentowski
  • Alexander Wieland
  • James Wilson
  • Louise Woodroofe

Bureau of Administration

  • Jeff Charlston
  • Corynne Gerow
  • Marvin Russell

National Archives and Records Administration

  • Cathleen Brennan
  • Beth Fidler
  • Bevin Maloney
  • Don McIlwain
  • Amy Reytar

Department of Defense

  • Paul Jacobsmeyer

Public

  • Bill Burr
  • James Grossman
  • Sharon Leon

Open Session, June 15

Approval of the Record

Adam Howard opened the meeting by welcoming everyone who was virtually attending at 10:03 a.m. Richard Immerman moved for the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting. Adrienne Lentz-Smith moved for approval; the motion was seconded by Mary Dudziak. The Committee approved the minutes by voice vote.

Immerman noted the unprecedented nature of the meeting, which was the first HAC to take place virtually. He noted that this might establish a precedent for more public involvement in the open sessions. Immerman welcomed new HAC members Melani McAlister and Jim Goldgeier, commenting he was glad to have qualified and committed scholars joining the committee. Immerman then noted that this would be the last meeting for two long serving members of the HAC and that this was bittersweet. He observed that Trudy Peterson lent her vast expertise to the HAC for more than a decade in not only the area of foreign policy, but also records management, archives, and declassification. He commented that she probably had forgotten more than everyone else ever knew about records management. Susan Perdue brought an expertise in edited volumes of primary source documents that had often been lacking in previous HACs. Immerman observed that Perdue had been incredibly generous in lending her time and expertise to OH and the HAC. Immerman thanked them for their service and said he had enjoyed working with this most collegial group of scholars.

Remarks by the Executive Secretary

Howard welcomed McAlister and Goldgeier to the Committee and read a letter into the record extolling Peterson’s contributions to the HAC.

In her decade serving on the Historical Advisory Committee, Trudy Peterson has provided exceptional insights thanks to her extensive work as an archivist, including her tenure as the Acting Archivist of the United States. Her thoughtful questions and observations about FRUS production, including many deep dives into the Perkins Chart, helped OH think long and hard about better ways to produce FRUS and also how best to communicate its production process so the public could better understand how the series is conceived and produced.

Thanks to Trudy’s deep understanding of government records and her intimate knowledge of how NARA works, she provided agency officials with informed questions and helpful suggestions for better procedures. Her commitment to transparency stretched beyond the committee’s immediate purview as well. Trudy has steadfastly worked to promote the development of archives around the world, working at times with OH historians on this important effort to promote openness and historic preservation.

Trudy also had the foresight and willingness to help new committee members adjust to the universe of government acronyms, taking the time to develop an ever-expanding acronym chart so her colleagues could decipher the arcane language of government speak. I would suggest this chart be forever named the Peterson chart in her honor.

Joe Wicentowski read a letter into the record praising Perdue’s numerous contributions to the HAC and the work of OH.

Since joining the committee in June 2012, Susan Holbrooke Perdue made invaluable contributions to the Office of the Historian in the strategically vital areas of documentary editing, digital humanities, and knowledge management. Her time on the committee coincided with a critical period in the office, in two respects: First, OH was completing a major project to digitize the legacy volumes in the Foreign Relations series. Second, OH began developing a plan to modernize the research and production workflow for the series. At key points during these initiatives, members of the Editing and Publishing and Digital Initiatives teams sought out and relied on Sue's guidance and expertise with their most difficult editorial, technical, and intellectual challenges. Sue patiently explained the benefits, for example, of building series-wide biographical and topical resources, which could form a lattice linking documents from across the series, and creating a general "control file" facility—a source of truth for all metadata associated with documents. Sue generously offered her time during and outside of HAC meetings. In addition, she fostered our engagement with the scholarly and academic community through panels at annual meetings of the Association for Documentary Editing, the Society for History in the Federal Government, and the National Council on Public History. To the present day, OH is still striving to carry out the goals that Sue helped us envision and articulate, and we are confident that, thanks to her efforts advising OH, we will be successful at building a solid foundation for the future of the series. We sincerely and heartily thank Sue Perdue for her many contributions to OH.

Howard then moved into recent developments in OH. Howard noted that four members of Congress, Ben Sasse, Angus King, Julian Castro, and Mike Gallagher, had requested a briefing on declassification matters. The meeting had taken place earlier this month and included Ambassador Daniel Smith, Eric Stein from IPS, Tom Muir and other DoD leadership, HAC members Richard Immerman and Will Inboden, and Howard and Rasmussen; it was a productive session. DoD noted during the briefing that they intended to establish a declassification team which would hopefully resolve some of the recent issues with DoD declassification.

Report by the General Editor

FRUS General Editor Kathy Rasmussen took the floor, noting that the Office had been simultaneously successful in keeping the historians safe and in keeping FRUS production ongoing. Since maximum telework has been in effect, normal FRUS classified work has been put on hold. Due to these circumstances, Rasmussen noted that compilers had been frontloading their work for future volumes by reading literature, preparing front matter and names lists, creating finding aids for future research, and engaging in declassified research among many other tasks. Rasmussen noted that work on the Memorandum of Understanding with NARA to access the Presidential Records materials was ongoing. She also noted arrangements had been made to grant researchers access to President George H.W. Bush’s personal diary for FRUS. The technical editors have been able to work on silent reading, proofreading, queries, and other FRUS-related tasks via telework. While most of the publishing goals for this year would likely be met, the inability of the editors to access classified FRUS material meant that there would be delays in production in 2021–2022.

Howard turned the floor over to Trudy Peterson who thanked everyone for the kind words and commented that it has been a wonderful opportunity to serve on the HAC. Susan Perdue expressed particular thanks to Joe Wicentowski and noted her experience serving on the HAC had been educational and positive. Immerman thanked the Office for managing to perform so much work on FRUS in the present circumstances.

Mary Dudziak then thanked Rasmussen and Howard for doing as much prep as possible to be productive during this time and asked what the Office was planning to do to reopen. Howard noted that the Department had entered phase 1 of reopening today (June 15), which meant that up to 40% of the Office could return physically. However normal operations would not resume at OH until phase III was reached, which might take some time.

Dudziak asked if the interagency process would be suspended until phase III because of the logistical difficulties. She also asked if classified work would be possible in phases I and II. Howard observed that classified work would not be possible on a large scale until phase III as the interagency process was delayed and work in OH would be subject to limitations.

Immerman asked Jeff Charlston from IPS how much material had been digitized and if classified terminals were available for review. Charleston noted that reviews would be essentially suspended until phase III as most of the reviewers would not be able to return until then. He stated that he was back in his office as part of phase I and work was being done to determine what processes could be performed in the present circumstances.

Peterson asked if DoD had filed a report on their declassification backlog which had been scheduled for release in April. Paul Jacobsmeyer noted that the report was still in process.

Immerman asked if there were additional questions and comments. Seeing none, he thanked the departing and arriving members of the HAC once more and brought the meeting to a close.