Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation June 14, 2021
- Richard Immerman, Chairman
- Mary Dudziak
- James Goldgeier
- Kristin Hoganson
- William Inboden
- Adriane Lentz-Smith
- Melani McAlister
- Nancy McGovern
- Deborah Pearlstein
Office of the Historian
- Kristin Ahlberg
- Carl Ashley
- Margaret Ball
- Forrest Barnum
- Sara 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
- Virginia Kinniburgh
- Michael McCoyer
- Christopher Morrison
- Mircea Munteanu
- David Nickles
- Paul Pitman
- Alexander Poster
- Kathleen Rasmussen
- 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
National Archives and Records Administration
- Cathleen Brennan
- Beth Fidler
- Bill Fischer
- David Langbart
- John Powers
- Amy Reytar
- Mark Sgambettera
- Over 25 members of the public
Open Session, June 14
Approval of the Record
Immerman opened the meeting at 10:01 by welcoming everyone to the meeting and then asked members of the Committee to move to accept the minutes from the March 2021 meeting. Dudziak made the first motion to accept the minutes and McAlister seconded the motion to approve the minutes.
Immerman noted by the next meeting in late August that he will rotate off the Committee and the members decided that a new Chair should be elected at this meeting in order to facilitate the transition. Immerman used the Chair’s prerogative to nominate Goldgeier to be the new Chair and asked for a second. Two Committee members seconded the motion. He asked for everyone on the Committee to take 30 seconds to nominate another person. No one else was nominated and Goldgeier was elected by acclamation. Immerman congratulated Goldgeier.
Goldgeier thanked everyone and said he hoped to maintain Immerman’s high standards as Chair.
Immerman said he would be available to help smooth the transition. He then introduced Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes.
Remarks by the Acting Director of the Foreign Service Institute
Noyes welcomed everyone and thanked Goldgeier for accepting the Chair position and both Immerman and Dudziak for their service to the Committee since Dudziak is also rotating off the Committee. She then welcomed three new members: Leon, McGovern, and Pearlstein and looks forward to their contributions. She noted the release of the microfiche supplement for American Republics; Cuba; and the Cuban Missile Crisis and the START I volume on OH’s website. In particular, she highlighted the Cuba volume as her parents are from Cuba and she was born during the Missile Crisis, so this volume is particularly significant for her and her family. She noted that OH has now published four FRUS volumes in 2021 which is incredible given the challenges of the pandemic. She then turned the meeting over to Howard.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Howard welcomed everyone to the meeting and said that at the August meeting OH will thank Immerman more formally. He also thanked Dudziak for her eight years of service to the Committee and then read the following statement:
“We are deeply grateful for Mary Dudziak’s eight years of service on the Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation. Professor Dudziak’s passion for government transparency and accountability through the publication of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series and the proper retention of the Department’s records was evident through her productive engagement with both the Office and the Department. Time and again, she provided valuable insights in both of these areas. Professor Dudziak also offered constructive advice to the Office about leveraging social media and other outreach activities to inform and engage the public and diverse scholarly communities, as well as adopting critical approaches to the encoding of historical data. In addition, we appreciate her 2018 presentation on Race and Foreign Policy in the Civil Rights Era to the then Bureau of Public Affairs Diversity Council, which drew engaged attendees from across the Department. We will miss Professor Dudziak’s presence on the Committee and want to thank her for her many years of commitment to such an important endeavor.”
Immerman said it is bittersweet for him to congratulate Dudziak and that her departure represents the end of an era. He noted that both OH and the Committee experienced challenges when first he, and then Dudziak, joined the Committee. Both had recovered and had since achieved tremendous successes. His and Dudziak’s departure represents the end of an era where members could remain on the Committee for thirteen and eight years respectively. He recalled the Storrs, Connecticut SHAFR meeting where he begged her to join the Committee. He is confident that with Goldgeier’s election as Chair and the new members that the Committee will continue to be strong. He also appreciates the new members’ patience during the clearance process. He said OH continues to perform miracles and hopes the end of the pandemic will mean the office can meet in person again and that new volumes will enter the process.
Dudziak thanked Howard and Immerman for their very generous remarks and noted that with the public in attendance she wished to encourage everyone to engage in public service. She has been happy that the transition from Randolph to Howard has been excellent, and that the office has a brilliant group of historians who have devoted their careers to getting FRUS volumes out as their way of serving the public. She noted the changes in the Committee and while the most impactful will be Immerman’s retirement, she stated that the new members of the Committee have such diverse skills that the Committee will be even stronger going forward. She also expressed confidence that her replacement as the ASIL representative, Pearlstein, will be an excellent member of the Committee.
Howard welcomed the new members of the Committee and then thanked IPS for the new MOU which regularizes OH’s role in the Department’s records schedule revision process.
Report by the General Editor
Rasmussen echoed everyone else’s sentiments and thanked Dudziak for her support for OH. She reiterated Noyes’s comments and noted that publication of the microfiche supplement and the FRUS START volume required teamwork. She thanked Wilson, Regan, Ross, Tudda, Chalou, and Wicentowski for their work on the START I volume. She then explained that the microfiche volumes had been produced by OH from 1993–1998 in order to provide additional documentation for each of the regular FRUS volumes that could not fit due to space limitations. They had languished for decades because most repositories do not have microfiche readers so OH launched a new initiative to digitize them. The new volume features 734 fully searchable documents. The 11 remaining supplements will be published in the future but will take a while, as each volume contains poor originals that require lots of work to make them readable. She thanked Chalou, Eckroth, Hite, Ross, and Wicentowski for their work on the recently published volume. She then introduced Tudda to discuss the FRUS declassification process.
Briefing on the Declassification Process
At 10:22 a.m., Rasmussen introduced Tudda with a brief professional biography noting that he joined the office in 2003 after receiving his Ph.D. from American University the year before. In addition to his duties as part of the OH’s FRUS declassification team, he has also compiled four volumes and is in the process of completing two more. Outside of OH, he has published extensively (most recently: Cold War Summits) and serves as an adjunct professor at George Washington University.
Tudda prefaced his presentation by welcoming the new members of the HAC and offered his personal thanks to Dudziak and Immerman for their years of service to the Committee and OH.
Turning to his presentation, Tudda opened by introducing himself and also noted that he is one of three members of the OH declass division, along with Division Chief Carl Ashley and Dean Weatherhead. He briefly outlined the parameters of the presentation, noting that due to the need to keep the discussion unclassified, he will be speaking in general terms about the declass process and the challenges this presents for OH.
OH’s mission, he began, is to work with interagency partners to release as much historical information as possible in the interest of the public’s right to know and the U.S. tradition of open government, while protecting information that would damage national security.
FRUS plays a unique role in the overall in U.S. Government declassification and is one of three routes for processing information for release to the public, along with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reviews and Mandatory Declassification Reviews (MDR). While FRUS pertains to a smaller number of documents than the others, it is the driving force behind government transparency efforts and defining the limits of what can be released to the public. That this is possible is due to the ‘FRUS law’—the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1992 (Public Law 102–138)—which charges the Department of State with producing the official documentary record of U.S. foreign policy and provides for specialized declassification timelines and procedures. Because OH has this institutionalized structure and mandate, OH plays the role of information release advocates with reluctant declassification authorities.
Reflecting on his 18 years at OH, Tudda stated that there is nothing routine about declassifying a compiled FRUS volume. While some are “easier” than others, each is different and have their own unique challenges and sensitivities that may require developing new approaches or long-term strategies. He added that volumes which seek to acknowledge any covert operations present additional challenges. Nevertheless, he observed, what remains consistent is OH’s commitment to getting the best possible declass review, regardless of the challenges, and one that allows us to publish an accurate historical record while protecting the information that must be protected.
Tudda then turned to discussing the steps of the FRUS declass process. He stated that the steps were not necessarily strictly chronological and often proceed simultaneously. He added that it is important to note that much of the process is not under OH control.
One part that is under OH control is the first step: Internal Processing. After a volume is received into the declass division, each page of the manuscript is numbered and metadata about each document in entered into a database that allows for status tracking of each page as it goes through the full declass process. At this point, the division also makes determinations about each document’s agency equities for declassification review. The manuscript is then referred to the reviewing agency. Echoing a comment made by Dudziak prior to the presentation, Tudda emphasized that this equity identification is very important to the overall process.
Tudda then turned to the second step: Coordination. OH, he noted, is not itself authorized to release information but rather acts as coordinator for a volume’s declassification review on behalf of the Department of State. Every document in a volume must be reviewed; in some cases, a single document will contain information from multiple U.S. Government agencies and must be reviewed by all of them. Each agency then has the opportunity to evaluate their information for national security sensitivities and, often, each will make different redactions in a document, all of which must then be reconciled in the final verification stage. This, he observed, takes both time and attention to detail.
Declass reviews of the entire manuscript are done by the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS), which conducts declass reviews for the Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency according to its memorandum of understanding with the Department and OH. CIA reviews the entirety of every manuscript regardless of whether the volume contains a covert action for acknowledgement or other significant intelligence equities. Depending on the volume, other main reviewing agencies can include the Departments of Defense and Energy.
Under the FRUS statute, agencies have 120 days to respond to OH’s initial referrals, but in practice these responses can take much longer to be returned—sometimes years. The reason for this, Tudda stated, is that each of these organizations has different internal cultures and institutional structures which affect the speed and (sometimes) the quality of reviews. Additional factors also include staff turnover, office reorganizations, and chronic underfunding of declassification reviews. Drawing on his personal experiences, Tudda observed that the efficiency of agency reviews has varied at different times. IPS, for example, has produced excellent reviews well within deadlines; others have struggled. Tudda said that he was happy to report that over the past 9 months, there has been a revolution in the way the Department of Defense conducts reviews, a fact upon which the Committee had already been briefed (and praised in its recent report).
Continuing, Tudda said the third step is Advocacy. He states that the truly unique feature of the process—and what gives FRUS its tremendous power as a declassification engine—is the provision in the FRUS law that allows OH to appeal declassification decisions obtained in the first agency review. If OH believes that the initial response would not permit it to meet the statutory requirement to publish an accurate historical record, the declass division will make suggestions for the release of additional material. According to the FRUS statute, agencies then have 60 days to respond, but again, in practice, the sensitivity of issues involved will often make these appeals longer to resolve (sometimes years) and occasionally include face-to-face negotiations. Almost every volume requires appeals to multiple agencies, which adds a lot to the overall length of time to declassify a volume. Once all agency review responses have been received and all appeals have been completed, the results are then referred to the National Security Council for the review of White House equities. The NSC will often recommend appeals for release of additional information. In practice, Tudda noted, it can be helpful to have a letter from the White House stating that certain information is no longer sensitive or previously declassified in order to lead agencies to release more information. For these reasons, Tudda explained, the public can be certain that once a volume goes through the FRUS declassification process, the result is the best possible review that can be obtained at that time. In the future, more information within a given volume may be released because the sensitivity of classified information declines with age, but OH is likely to produce the best review that can be had at a given point in time of publication.
Tudda then discussed the mechanism for addressing the acknowledgement of covert actions documented in FRUS volumes. While it comes with an additional set of complications, a unique feature of the FRUS series is the fact that it is the only publications in which the U.S. Government regularly acknowledges historical covert actions. Acknowledging a covert action for publication requires obtaining approval from the Department, CIA, and NSC. The process by which OH seeks this approval is called the High Level Panel (HLP). While it is not a quick and easy process, and sometimes add years to declass, it has been successful. Since the establishment of the HLP, Tudda states, OH has documented over 60 individual covert actions in the FRUS series.
The final step in the declass process is Verification. Once OH is satisfied the declassification process will result in a published record that meets the requirement to be “thorough, accurate, and reliable” as required by statute, verification meetings are held with CIA and IPS. At the meetings with CIA, the parties sit down and go through the volume to ensure that all redactions are identical. During the meetings with IPS, they confirm all redactions taken by all reviewing agencies. Once all meetings have been held the declassification of the volume is considered complete. Tudda stated that since the margin for error in the accidental release of classified information is zero, declass coordinators then work closely with the OH Editing and Publishing Division to ensure that final declassification decisions are accurately reflected in the published volumes.
On average, Tudda estimated that it takes 2.5 years to declassify a volume that does not document a covert action and more than 5.5 years to declassify one that does. He emphasized that it is important for FRUS users to keep this difference in mind.
Tudda concluded his presentation with a final point, stating that there are a lot of challenges to declassification, but that the biggest challenge for declass reviewers is the element of risk involved in making the decision to release something classified. If some previously unknown item hits the newspaper and causes a commotion, a release decision could be criticized. Part of OH’s challenge is to educate people across the government about what FRUS is, why it is important, and to reassure them that OH is not out to damage U.S. national security. He added that though there is risk to releasing information, there is also a risk in not releasing information as it can call into question U.S. Government claims about openness and transparency. Continuing, Tudda stated that this can be particularly the case when events in question are well known to the public; withholding information from the official record can cause (and has caused) a dramatic backlash—as was the case with the publication of the original volume covering Iran in the 1950s, a case which led to the current FRUS statute. Ultimately, Tudda concluded, not only the reputation of the U.S. Government is at stake, but the fundamental value and tradition of government openness that is part of what we as a nation are all about.
Rasmussen thanked Tudda for his presentation and solicited questions from the HAC and public. As no questions were asked, the meeting proceeded to the next agenda item at 10:39 a.m.
Report on START I
James Graham Wilson made a presentation on the FRUS volume that covers START 1, 1981–1988, which was released on April 22. Wilson, who researched and compiled the volume, opened with thanks to colleagues who also worked on the volume, including Chris Tudda, who coordinated the declassification review, Matthew Regan, who did the copy and technical editing, and Amanda Ross, who arranged publication clearances. Wilson praised the contributions made by the volume’s reviewers, former office director, Stephen Randolph, and Kathleen Rasmussen. He also described ongoing collaboration between colleagues in the office, including Elizabeth Charles, Paul Pitman, and Tudda. The group has exchanged ideas and documents during their work on volumes from the Carter, Reagan, and Bush subseries that cover U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, the INF Treaty, European Security, and Arms Control.
By way of introduction, Wilson explained the context and main features of START, which was signed in 1991. He explained that START I—the retronym for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, following the signing of START II in January 1993—is the antecedent to the April 2010 “New Start” Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation, which is the treaty that U.S. President Joseph Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently agreed to extend for five years. START I set limits of 6,000 warheads and 1,600 delivery vehicles, with a sub-limit on missiles with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). As a result, the Soviet Union agreed to reduce the throw weight of its strategic missile force by about half. Wilson explained that START I followed on from the 1972 Interim Agreement—better known as SALT I—and the negotiations leading up to the signing of the SALT II Treaty in 1979 (which was never ratified). While it is part of the Reagan sub-series, START I, 1981–1988 follows in a sequence of FRUS volumes that includes SALT I, 1969–1972 and SALT II, 1972–1980.
Wilson provided brief descriptions of each of the four chapters in START I, 1981–1988. During the period covered by the first chapter (July 1981 to January 1985), U.S.-Soviet negotiations on strategic arms control made little progress; this reflected political controversies about the SALT process, the Reagan administration’s internal debates, and the Soviet Union’s efforts to hamper NATO’s plans to modernize intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF). The chapter also covers U.S. efforts from January 1984 onward to craft an “umbrella” proposal for Nuclear and Space Talks (NST) that took up three issues: START, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), and Defense and Space (DST).
The period covered by the second chapter (January 1985 to October 1986), which begins with the January 1985 meeting in Geneva between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, during which they agreed to begin NST. This chapter covers negotiations on strategic weapons in the first round of the NST talks, focusing on strategic arms control as well as Defense and Space. Further detail on the INF talks will appear in the volume on the INF Treaty. An important issue throughout was whether the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) could be reconciled with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
The third chapter, which covers the period from October 1986 to December 1987, opens with the Reykjavik Summit. Wilson noted that the volume made available further records from the summit, including a memorandum of conversation for the all-night session between Ambassador Paul Nitze and Soviet Marshal Akhromeyev. The chapter then covers the negotiations that led up to the framework agreement for START, which was announced at the December 1987 Washington Summit (at which the INF Treaty was signed). The framework specified “top line” numbers: 6000 warheads, 1600 delivery vehicles, and 1540 warheads on 154 heavy missiles, such that the aggregate throw-weight of the Soviet Union’s strategic missiles would be reduced by about 50 percent.
The fourth chapter, which covers the period from December 1987 to January 1989, documents the negotiations required to complete a START agreement. Issues that came up at this point explain why it proved impossible to reach a deal in time for the May 1988 Moscow Summit. During this period two significant themes emerged: 1) how much more difficult it was to verify reductions in strategic weapons for START—as opposed to the elimination of an entire class of weapons in the December 1987 INF Treaty; 2) Secretary of State George Shultz’s direct engagement with the U.S. military establishment, during which service chiefs discussed concerns about budget cuts and Soviet inspections of U.S. forces. The chapter—and the volume—concludes with the Reagan administration’s preparations to turn START over to the incoming Bush administration. Wilson noted that the START I story continues in a volume that covers the period from 1989 to 1991 (currently under declassification review).
Rasmussen expressed her appreciation for Wilson’s presentation and led the discussion, starting with a question from the public regarding Japan’s role in Reagan-era arms control negotiations. Wilson responded that the Reagan administration sought to protect Japanese interests. Thus, in his November 1983 speech to the Japanese Diet, Reagan stated that in the INF negotiations “[w]e must not and we will not accept any agreement that transfers the threat of longer-range nuclear missiles from Europe to Asia.” Researchers will be able to find further material on this theme in the FRUS volumes on Japan, China, and Global Issues I, which will feature a section on arms control.
Richard Immerman asked how the START I volume contributed to historiographical debates. Wilson stated that the volume will change the way scholars explain the Reagan administration’s failure to conclude the treaty in time for the Moscow Summit. Earlier accounts had given the impression that it would have been easy to conclude the treaty, and that progress was blocked by specific stakeholders, such as the Navy, which worried about Soviet inspections of U.S. submarines. The documentation presented in the volume will show that many other tough issues needed to be resolved. Rasmussen asked whether Wilson’s understanding depended on exploring the details of the negotiations. Wilson responded that START I was the first treaty on strategic weapons that called for reductions and onsite inspections. Both issues were difficult to handle—and the solutions found to them may be useful for future arms negotiations.
Virginia Kinniburgh asked Wilson to discuss compiling subject-related volumes like START I alongside the more wide-ranging volumes on the Soviet Union, raising the issues of how to distribute documents between volumes and how the compilers working on a subseries may collaborate. Wilson responded that the different volumes made it possible to add layers of documentation with different perspectives. Wilson illustrated his remark with the results of a search for FRUS documents containing the term “Geneva” during the last quarter of 1985 (see https://history.state.gov/search?q=geneva&within=documents&start-date=1985-10-01&end-date=1985-12-31&sort-by=date-asc). He noted that the Soviet volumes documented major bilateral meetings, while specific volumes could cover individual themes from a wide variety of perspectives, some of which will be added by forthcoming volumes. In a written comment, Tudda stated that the arms control section of the Global Issues I volume would include documentation on the Krasnoyarsk radar that was too extensive to fit in the START I volume.
Another member of the public invited Wilson to evaluate the balance between U.S. vs. Soviet concessions in the START negotiations and asked whether the major breakthroughs resulted from Soviet or U.S. movement on key issues. Wilson, who cited James Cameron’s contribution to the Spring 2020 special issue of Daedalus on “Meeting the Challenges of a New Nuclear Age,” (https://direct.mit.edu/daed/issue/149/2), stated that for the most part U.S. negotiators agreed to eliminate weapons systems that the Congress was likely to cut anyway. This led Wilson to speculate that the main U.S. concession in the negotiations was the reduction in air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) on B–52 bombers, which the U.S. traded for reductions in Soviet throw-weight.
Another member of the public, who noted that Reagan scholars and administration veterans have suggested that the documentary record does not always capture Reagan's thinking, asked about additional sources that might supplement the START I volume. Wilson responded that he hoped that, taken together, the Reagan arms control and national security policy volumes will provide a solid basis for monographs on Reagan’s thinking and action. In addition, the footnotes point readers to additional sources, among which Wilson identified Reagan’s diaries and memoirs as especially revealing. Wilson added that, in response to manuscript reviews that suggested more extensive coverage of Department of Defense perspectives, he developed compilations on Defense Policy and Strategic Planning for the National Security Policy volumes.
Returning to an emailed query, which touched on track 1.5, Wilson pointed out that FRUS is not limited to official government documents; the compiler has the option to select materials from private collections, non-governmental organizations, or other entities, provided the compiler judges that they helped decide national policy.
Rasmussen thanked Wilson for his presentation and led a round of applause.
Report from the National Declassification Center
Immerman introduced Bill Fischer, Director of the National Declassification Center. Fischer began by announcing that NARA at Archives II was reopening due to recent improvement in the local health situation. NARA will enter Phase II next week, meaning an increased presence in the building by both the NDC staff and their interagency partners. He cautioned, however, that this meant resuming only limited declassification operations. Fischer next reported on the progress of the memorandum of understanding between the NDC and the Department of State historians. The MOU is necessary to determine how the historians will do research after the presidential records move to Archives II. Fischer deemed the draft MOU “excellent” and revealed that it is now under senior management review at NARA. Another question will be where exactly the presidential records will be located. All moves from the presidential libraries have been postponed due to Covid-19, and there is no information on when the moves will resume. For example, the Bush 41, Reagan, Clinton, Nixon, and Johnson records have not yet been received by Archives II. Archives II has received the Trump presidential records and NARA is working to gain “intellectual and physical control” over those records. Fischer also mentioned that despite their current partial operations, NARA was continuing to allow a limited number of reviewers from some agencies, including the Department of State, into the facility.
Fischer declared that one of the NDC’s recent successes was in electronic review. The 1980 and 1981 P and N reels are now digitized, allowing review of those records by a Department reviewer. Once more staff members and agency personnel have returned the main priority of NDC is to reduce the backlog of records needing evaluation. The STAIRS system was transferred to NARA custody last December and successfully “plugged in.” Fischer expects the system to become fully operational as more staff and IT personnel return.
Fischer stated that some of their other top priorities are the FOIA and MDR programs, preparing the Nixon tapes for online release, and reestablishing their interagency referral center. They also have plenty of work to do making available space in the classified stacks for future shipments of presidential records and moving declassified records to open stacks.
Kristin Hoganson asked about the exact meaning of intellectual and physical control regarding records. Fischer replied that NARA has a system called HMS (Holdings Management System). This consists of receiving records, creating a basic level of description for future declassification, shelving records in their allotted space, digitally accounting for them, and thus linking a box of records in a particular space to a record in their HMS system so they can physically determine where it is located. During the pandemic NARA had the opportunity to prioritize data entry into the unclassified HMS by employees working from home. This would have been difficult had the staff been present at Archives II and working on normal declassification activities.
Immerman asked if they performed a similar process with the Obama papers, and will this be replicated in the future depending on the future of the presidential library system. Fischer responded that the Obama records have been entered into the HMS at the series and box level and will be open for FOIA next year. As new presidential records arrive, they will use this process.
Rasmussen thanked Fischer for his report, especially the update on the MOU and the status of the presidential records.
Mary Dudziak was concerned about researchers, especially current graduate students, not having access to archival material, instead having to decide whether to abandon their projects because of uncertainty about when access would resume. Only in Phase III will researchers be allowed back in the Archives. Dudziak wondered if NARA had thought creatively about how to accommodate researchers under pandemic conditions and noted that a generation of young scholars were not able to access the records that would shape their careers. She asked if there was a way to grant more access to researchers moving forward.
Fischer acknowledged that these were great points. There was no discussion of a Phase III at Archives II yet. The classified research room is only open to those with security clearances. They ultimately need a way to allow uncleared researchers to visit NARA and conduct research. Fischer believed that they could develop procedures to accomplish that.
Immerman declared that his nightmare was that whatever followed Phase II would mean a surge of researchers appearing at Archives II and other facilities and overwhelming the staff. He hoped a system would be established to mitigate this.
David Langbart revealed that there is a very limited pilot program to open the Archives II research room. The research room would be open only two days a week, five hours a day. The research room would only accommodate 10 researchers at a time, versus 256 before the pandemic. A pre-visit consultation is required, and researchers are limited in the number of boxes they can access. Consultation is required before each visit—one consultation, one visit. Then it’s back to the end of the line. What the research room experience will look like in the future is still an open question. The Archivist has also made clear that the building will close its doors again if there is another COVID spike. John Powers agreed with Langbart that it might be a long time before the research room returns to normal.
Immerman thanked the participants and presenters and adjourned the meeting.