Record of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, November
A scan of the original document is available for download (PDF, 429 KB, 19pp.)
Source: Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation Files, 1957-1990 (Lot File 96 D 292), Box 2, 1970—Minutes. Limited Official Use. Drafted by William Slany. Attachment 1 is present, but not posted.
Record of the 1970 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States
- The Advisory Committee:
- Inis L. Claude, Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia (American Political Science Association)
- David R. Deener, Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, Tulane University (American Society of International Law)
- Hardy C. Dillard [In Europe], Professor of Law, University of Virginia (American Society of International Law)
- W. Stull Holt, Professor of History, University of Washington (American Historical Association)
- Ernest R. May, Dean of Harvard College (American Historical Association)
- Elmer Plischke, Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland (American Political Science Association)
- Paul A. Varg, Professor of History, Michigan State University (American Historical Association)
- Stephen M. Schwebel1, Executive Director and Vice President, The American Society of International Law
- The Bureau of Public Affairs:
- Michael Collins, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
- The Historical Office:
- William M. Franklin, Director
- Richardson Dougall
- S. Everett Gleason
- Edwin S. Costrell
- Arthur G. Kogan
- Fredrick Aandahl
- Rogers P. Churchill
- Ralph R. Goodwin
- Herbert A. Fine
- Evans Gerakas
- John P. Glennon
- David W. Mabon
- Neal H. Petersen
- John G. Reid
- Charles S. Sampson
- William Slany
- Howard M. Smyth
- David H. Stauffer
Opening Session - 9:15 am. - 12:15 p.m.
Dr. Franklin welcomed the Committee and announced that Assistant Secretary of State Collins would participate in the Committee’s session later in the morning. He also noted that the Committee, whose current membership was unchanged from that of 1969, would next year lose the services of Drs. Dillard, Holt, and Plischke.
Before proceeding with the scheduled agenda of the Committee, Dr. Franklin reported on an exchange that he had had with Professor Howard Zinn, Professor of Government at Boston University and one of the leading “New Left” historians, during a session of the Society of American Archivists in Washington on September 30. Prof. Zinn had criticized the Advisory Committee for not insisting that all documents should be published before they were more than a year or two old. Dr. Franklin had felt obliged to respond in defense of the Department and the Advisory Committee, indicating that the Department was ahead of all other foreign offices in its publication and access programs, and that the Committee was neither tame nor captive. Dr. Franklin confessed that he had made practically no impression on Zinn, who was personally not unpleasant but utterly unrealistic in his demands.
AGENDA ITEM I: SELECTION OF CHAIRMAN
Dr. Claude nominated Dr. Varg to serve as Chairman. When Dr. May moved that the nominations be closed, there was unanimous agreement.
AGENDA ITEM II: STATUS OF THE SERIES AND PUBLICATION PROSPECTS
Dr. Aandahl distributed to the Committee copies of the latest chart summarizing the status of annual volumes for 1946-1949 and the two remaining wartime conference volumes [see Attachment l].
Dr. Gleason presented a report on the current position of the series [see Attachment 2].
AGENDA ITEM III: CLEARANCE AND TECHNICAL EDITING
Dr. Gleason advised the Committee that clearance and technical editing remained the two principal obstacles to speedier publication of the Foreign Relations series. Personnel in the Publishing and Reproduction Division of the Department of State responsible for the technical editing of Foreign Relations had been reduced to 2 1/2 editors -- the lowest number in many years. Last week the number had been raised to 3 1/2. Most of the technical editing and all of the indexing for the series was carried out under contract outside the Department of State. The contracted technical editing had proved so far to be reasonably satisfactory, but the indexing had been poor and had resulted in much delay.
Dr. Gleason reported that clearance of Foreign Relations within the Department of State was no more difficult than heretofore, and the time involved ranged from three to thirteen months. The principal clearance problems were with the Defense Department and the National Security Council. Defense Department clearance had never been easy, but until recently the requests had been based upon often reasonable arguments of national security. In the past year significant requests for deletions from the Defense Department had been based not on national security but had appeared to stem from the desire of the military to show a “low profile”. The deletions were of the sort which would endanger the credibility and authority of the series. Even more serious was the inability of the Historical Office to obtain permission from the National Security Council for the publication of documents originated by that body. Failure to obtain NSC clearance had resulted in the holding up of Volume III of 1947 since December 1968. The absence of NSC clearance threatened the very life of the series in as much as the Council was the ultimate arbiter in practically every major problem in U.S. foreign policy in the late 1940’s.
A discussion of Dr. Gleason’s report followed.
Dr. Franklin expressed a cautious optimism regarding the acceleration of the compilation of later volumes of Foreign Relations, but he expressed apprehension that clearance delays might more than offset gains in the rate of compilation. Dr. Plischke asked if the slippage of the publication of the series beyond the 20-year line was continuing, if at a declining rate. Dr. Franklin responded by stating that in his discussions with other officers of the Department of State he would insist upon 25 years as the absolute limit in the publication of Foreign Relations. Dr. Holt was not optimistic that the slippage could be held to 25 years and inquired how the Committee could be of assistance. He observed that the Department officers appeared not to be observing the requirement to complete the clearance within three months, and he proposed that a six-months rule would be reasonable and should be adopted and enforced. In response to Dr. Holt’s question as to which level of Department office could best expedite observance of some definite limitation on clearance time, Dr. Gleason suggested that the Assistant Secretaries of State might be able to demand fulfillment by country directors.
The discussion turned to the personnel problems of the Foreign Relations staff. Dr. Franklin recalled that the staff had been increased by four positions in the past decade. Two of these had been transferred from the German Documents Project and one from the Current Documents Project (regarding whose demise Dr. Franklin expressed regret). The fourth job had come from a vacancy elsewhere in the Bureau. The two most recent additions to the Foreign Relations staff were introduced to the Committee: Evans Gerakas who had formerly been with the Current Documents Project, and Dr. David Mabon who had come to the Department from the California State College at Hayward. Two Foreign Service officers with graduate training had been recruited to fill upcoming vacancies. Assistant Secretary of State Collins, who had taken a lively interest in the work of the Historical Office, has approved the Office’s request for two new positions. Dr. Holt asked about the special studies activities in the Historical Office, and Dr. Franklin indicated that the present reduced staff was barely able to keep up with current assignments. As an example of personnel stringencies within the Historical Office, Dr. Franklin observed that Dr. Kogan no longer had any staff to assist him in administering the access program.
The Committee returned to the Defense Department clearance problem and asked what it might do in the matter. Dr. Franklin felt that any strong Advisory Committee initiative with respect to Defense clearance delays would be inappropriate and would not be well received by officials in Defense. Dr. Deener pointed out that the chart summarizing the status of Foreign Relations volumes [attachment 1] appeared to indicate that the Defense Department cleared galleys more rapidly than the State Department. Dr. Dougall observed that Defense cleared galleys rapidly in matters not deeply involved with national security but was slow where such issues appeared to be involved. Dr. Gleason again deplored the fact that recent Defense Department requests for deletions did not appear to be based on questions of national security. He pointed to the Pacific trusteeship islands as an example. The attitude of the Joint Chiefs of Staff towards these islands in the late 1940’s was a matter of public knowledge. Nevertheless the Defense Department now objected to the publication of the official records on the subject. Dr. Franklin recalled that in the past the Defense Department had sometimes refused to approve the publication in Foreign Relations of Joint Chiefs of Staff views which had appeared in the memoirs of President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill.
Dr. Schwebel alluded to the reluctance of the Defense Department to permit the use of the terms “military attaché” and “naval attaché” in Foreign Relations. He warned that the proposed resort to editorial circumlocutions to avoid these terms would only lead readers to the erroneous conclusion that the series was concealing references to covert intelligence operatives rather than to the well-known and traditional information-gathering activities of Embassy attaches. Dr. Gleason remarked that the argument had already been raised with Defense.
In response to a question from Dr. Varg, Dr. Gleason expressed the view that any effort to speed up Defense clearance would have to emanate from the Under Secretary of State level. It was pointed out that Under Secretary Irwin had previously served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs and might be able to take some action in the Defense clearance problem. Dr. Varg stated that the Advisory Committee ought to try to raise the matter during their luncheon with Under Secretary Irwin.
In response to a query from Dean May, Dr. Franklin and Dr. Gleason reviewed the issues involved in securing downgrading of National Security Council documents and the steps so far taken in the matter. The Defense Department was adhering closely to the letter of the regulations in insisting that NSC documents could only be declassified by the NSC. The NSC had apparently never considered the possibility of declassification, and it was proving difficult to obtain prompt and favorable action.
[The Committee recessed briefly for coffee.]
Dr. Claude observed that the focus of the declassification problem appeared to be moving away from delay and toward outright refusal to permit publication of documents. He advocated the establishment of some procedural apparatus -- possibly a neutral appeals board -- which could review and reverse negative clearance decisions and mitigate the authority of clearance officers.
Dean May felt that the question of clearance with other agencies was not really a procedural matter but a policy question which the Department of State alone could not resolve. He suggested that there was need for an executive order which would remove the prohibition to the publication of documents of a given age. Dr. Schwebel doubted that the matter of clearance of documents outside the Department of State could be handled by any automatic procedure. Any appeals board would be limited by not being a policy-making body. Dr. Holt suggested that Congress might pass a law opening all records in the National Archives after 20 years in place of the current 30-year rule. Dr. Deener suggested the desirability of bringing together top State and NSC officials at luncheons for the discussion of clearance problems, and Dr. Claude offered the possibility that such meetings could be expanded to include Defense officials.
In responding to the various ideas put forward on the clearance problem, Dr. Franklin observed that the traditional method for appealing denials of clearance was to push such controversies to higher levels in the Department and in the government, including the President. He recalled that the publication of the records of the Big Four meetings at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference had been considered by Hull, Roosevelt, and Churchill for a final (if reluctant) decision. Dr. Franklin doubted that any clearance appeals board would have either the responsibility or the power necessary to operate effectively, and he saw no reason to believe that Congress would legislate the full opening of Defense and NSC files after 20 years. Any legislation, such as the current Freedom of Information law, would necessarily be so phrased as to exclude all those areas of important and sensitive policy documentation to which the scholars sought access. He was not sanguine that the NSC and the Central Intelligence Agency would be willing to adhere to even a 30-year rule on disclosure.
In answer to a query Dr. Franklin explained that the agreement with the Department of Defense provided that the latter would supply for Foreign Relations only those documents that represented the advice and recommendations of the Defense Department to the Secretary of State and the President.
Dr. Plischke agreed that the use of top-level papers was a reasonable formula for inter-agency relations, and he wondered about its application to the problem of NSC documents. Dr. Dougall pointed out that there was no problem of acquiring NSC documents, in contrast to Defense files, in as much as the State Department was a repository of NSC documents. The question was one of clearance. Dr. Gleason observed that many NSC documents were similar to or identical with Department of State Policy Planning Staff papers. The NSC could not object to the publication of such Policy Planning Staff papers as such but it had refused to approve the declassification of these same papers as NSC numbered documents.
Dr. Varg inquired if the Committee’s report should call for more inter-agency agreements as a basis for clearance. At the suggestion of Dr. Deener further discussion of this issue was held over for the private meeting of the Committee.
Dean May asked if the Historical Office had considered the possibility of preparing a current, classified version of Foreign Relations for internal Department use. Dr. Franklin replied that work of this sort was in effect being done by the Historical Studies Division of the Historical Office. There was not sufficient staff, however, to carry forward the work on any large scale. To do so would require the assignment of members of the Foreign Relations staff and would thus further slow down the publication of the series.
There was some discussion of the application of modern technological innovations to the task of speeding the publication of Foreign Relations. Dr. Franklin explained that he and other members of the staff had taken courses dealing with the application of computerized data retrieval systems to foreign-policy problems. He described briefly the Department-wide computerized data system currently under development, but he noted that this system would only cover current documentation from a certain date onwards; it would be of no assistance for research in the pre-computer period.
[Assistant Secretary of State Collins entered the meeting at 11 a.m. and was introduced to the members of the Advisory Committee.]
Dr. Holt stated that historians were dismayed at the slippage in the publication of Foreign Relations. Professional groups wanted something done to reverse the trend. It had been suggested that the introduction of the photo-offset process method of reproducing original documents from the files of the Department would save a portion of the time spent in the technical editing of the letterpress volumes and greatly accelerate the publication of the series. Dr. Varg was interested in the suggestion. Dr. Gleason expressed preference for the present editing-printing process and felt that the real need of the series was for more staff. Dr. Franklin explained that the photo-offset process had been investigated some time ago. Although it might speed up the series a bit, compilation and clearance would remain the principal time-consuming phases of publication. He reminded the Committee that photo-offset would necessitate additional annotation to explain typographical errors, stamps, endorsements, garbled phrases, etc., and that legibility of the finished product would be poor. Dr. Dougall added that offset would in fact increase clearance time, in so far as clearance officers would either refuse to read the often illegible copy or would read it more slowly.
At Dr. Varg’s request, Dean May reported on the historians’ views on the delay in publishing Foreign Relations. Dean May, who with Dr. Holt was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians on access to the files, stated that historians and students were worried because the delayed volumes were those covering the controversial “cold war” period. Concern over the delay in publication was coupled with concern regarding earlier access to the files of the Department of State. Photo-offset was one of the ideas suggested by the historians. Another possibility was a further reduction in the number of volumes published for each year. Yet another suggestion was that temporary workers be brought into the Department from the academic field to aid in the selection of documents for the series. Dr. Holt emphasized that the Ad Hoc Committee was particularly concerned about the access problem.
Dr. Franklin said that Foreign Relations would want the firm backing of the Advisory Committee if further reductions were to be made in the scope and size of the series. Many historians assumed that the number of annual volumes would actually increase to cover the important materials of the “cold war” period. When Dr. Claude asked what advantage would result from restricting the series to four volumes per year, Dr. Gleason replied that such a reduction would neither speed compilation nor would it permit adequate coverage of major topics. He feared that major topics would be excluded from such an abbreviated series, and Foreign Relations would cease to function as a guide to important subjects and files.
Dean May expressed the opinion that Foreign Relations was valuable to students doing initial research or engaged in senior theses, but serious graduate students necessarily had to resort to the primary materials in the files. Historians would be much happier with a selective Foreign Relations series, suitable for course work, together with microfilm depositories around the country of State Department files. Such regional microfilm files might be related to the Presidential libraries.
Dr. Schwebel preferred a complete series rather than a selective one. He mentioned the problem of foreign scholars who were unable to work in the files of the Department, and he stated that the United States had an obligation to publish a complete record, particularly in view of its past record of openness. He also mentioned his regret as an international lawyer that the volume of documentation on international law topics had already been reduced in recent volumes of Foreign Relations. Dr. Claude stated that given a choice between a comprehensive series published after 25 years or a minimal one published after 20 years, he would choose the latter, and he thought most political scientists would agree. Dr. Plischke observed that if reducing the number of volumes would not result in earlier publication, he would prefer to see the more comprehensive series continue. What was really needed, he observed, was more people both to expedite the publication of the series and to provide earlier access to the files.
Assistant Secretary of State Collins stated that the Public Affairs Bureau was actively working toward the goal of increased staff. A request for two additional persons for the Foreign Relations staff had been approved by the Department. He warned that the request, which represented two-thirds of the Bureau’s total staff increase request, might have difficulty when reviewed by the Budget Bureau.
Dr. Holt reported that the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations had applied to several foundations for grants to support internships in the Department of State. Plans envisaged two-year internships for young scholars at the doctorate level. Dr. Holt reported further that financial support had not yet been obtained, partly because the foundations felt that funds should be available from the Department for normal staffing. He felt that the academic community would benefit greatly if there were more younger historians who had first-hand experience in the functioning of the Department.
Dr. Franklin felt it would be necessary to be cautious in taking up the intern plan. The work in Foreign Relations required a long apprenticeship. It might be advisable to begin the program on a trial basis with one or two carefully chosen young scholars. Assistant Secretary Collins mentioned to the Committee the current program for White House Fellows as possibly providing ideas for handling the proposed intern program. Dr. Franklin mentioned the possibility that interns under a program of the National Historical Publications Commission might be assigned to the Department of State for training -- although most of these interns were specializing in a much earlier period of American history.
Dr. Holt stated that there was a view held by many people, but with which he did not agree, that the Foreign Relations series should be abandoned if it falls more than 30 years beyond currency and that it should be replaced by a number of regional microfilm centers of State Department materials.
Dr. Varg asked if it would be possible to give access to the files for years for which Foreign Relations were not released or in some way defining the restricted access period in a fixed relationship to the 30-year limit rather than to the release of Foreign Relations volumes. In reply, Dr. Franklin reviewed the general problem of document declassification. He pointed out that the State Department did not have a declassification team. The publication of Foreign Relations was of critical importance in the downgrading and declassification of blocks and years of files. In preparing documentation for Foreign Relations, the staff in effect was operating as a declassification team. The publication in the series of documentation on a particular subject generally permitted Department officers to decide that other materials on the same subject could be declassified. Without the prior publication of Foreign Relations, access to the files in the restricted period and favorable review by desk officers of notes on such materials would be incomparably more difficult. In addition, there would be a multiplication of the number of case-by-case determinations of grants of access and review of notes with a consequent inevitable delay in time.
Dr. Plischke pointed out that he and perhaps other members of the Committee had seen in draft an article by James MacGregor Burns proposing that all documents six years and older be made available to the public. [The Burns article appeared subsequently in The New York Times Book Review, November 8, 1970.] Dr. Schwebel felt that advocacy of such a short closed period was irresponsible. It was also important to remember that such a proposal would lead to complications with many foreign governments.
Dr. Holt stated that several initiatives for Congressional action on earlier access to the files were to be anticipated. A 20-year rule was being mentioned. Dr. Franklin predicted that none of these proposals would effect the automatic declassification of precisely those types of high-level and/or multilateral documentation that caused the real trouble, such as NSC, JCS or NATO documentation.
Dr. Deener asked whether the Foreign Relations volumes for 1947-1948 constituted a bottleneck for the series, and Dr. Holt expressed the anxiety that the series was steadily slipping further from currency despite efforts of the staff to speed up publication. Dr. Franklin reiterated his guarded optimism concerning the improving prospects for speedier publication of the series. The reduction in the number of volumes per year would slowly result in faster coverage per year. The benefits of the reduction would become more evident as the series completed publication of the large number of volumes covering 1945 and 1946. The number of volumes published in the last three or four years exceeded the number published in the preceding three or four years.
Dr. Franklin, replying to a question from Dr. Plischke, explained that the files for 1945 had been opened as the Foreign Relations volumes for that year were published, area by area. The practice had not been very satisfactory either for the scholars or for the Department. Hence the decision had been made not to open up the year 1946 for access until all the Foreign Relations volumes for that year had been published.
Dr. Holt asked about the likely consequence to the Foreign Relations series of an Advisory Committee recommendation in support of a 20-year access rule unrelated to the publication of Foreign Relations. He felt that the public access program should not suffer merely because the Department of State was unable to provide the staff adequate to keep the Foreign Relations series up to 20 years. Dr. Franklin stressed the range of practical difficulties which would result from an access program that was not directly related to the publication of the series. These difficulties included the probable necessity of detailing members of the Foreign Relations staff to service the larger number of researchers entering the uncompiled portion of the files and the need for full security clearance of scholars rather than the more simplified name check employed at present. Dr. Varg commented that a fixed 20-year access rule appeared likely simply to shift the clearance problem from the series to individual scholars.
Dr. Schwebel observed that some officials who had left government service had not followed the rules of access, had taken documents, and had published books on the basis of such papers. He suggested that Congressional action was necessary to prevent such a practice. Dr. Franklin reviewed the current regulations governing the control and removal of official documents by retired officials. He pointed out that the microfilm materials constituting the Dulles Papers were under the same restrictions as the original materials retained by the Department of State. Former Presidents could take away all papers in the White House, but they had no authority to declassify them. Existing laws and regulations did not really cover this problem.
In closing the morning session, Dr. Varg observed that a 20-year access rule was excellent in principle. The problem remained how to implement the rule.
[The Committee recessed for lunch with Under Secretary of State John N. Irwin II.]
Afternoon Session - 2:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Dr. Varg opened the afternoon session. He observed that the agenda appeared to have been well covered in the morning, and he asked for any additional questions or comments on the items already discussed.
Dr. Slany reminded the Committee of another aspect of the relationship between the publication of the Foreign Relations and the access policy. Scholars should be under no illusion that the grant of access would offer quick and direct discovery of the most important foreign-policy records on a given subject. The records of the Department were in a state of archival chaos. Some of the most important documentation was in unindexed lot files. Although they enjoy the advantage of wide-ranging official authority in carrying out their work, members of the Foreign Relations staff have the greatest difficulty groping through the documentary maze. The often unhappy experience of scholars who have or are now working in the files of the Department demonstrates the hazards and difficulties. The Foreign Relations series alone would provide the authoritative guide to the vital records of the Department.
Dr. Kogan commented upon the principal problems emerging from the access program. After five years of experience in reviewing the notes and manuscripts of outside scholars who have been granted access to the files, he was convinced that little had been added by this research to the official record already published in the Foreign Relations series. He stressed his conviction that the series had very extensive coverage on all the major foreign-policy questions of the post-war period. Referring to Dean May’s earlier assessment of the value of the series to scholars and students, Dr. Kogan emphasized his confidence that Foreign Relations was important to the experienced scholar as well as to the beginning researchers.
Dean May replied that he had not intended to deprecate the series but merely to indicate that historians would find it necessary to go beyond the Foreign Relations volumes and into the unpublished records for the full story on any subject.
Dr. Dougall reminded the Committee that student-scholars given access to the files often lacked the training and ability to use the raw files of the Department. There were many aspects to the documents that could be misunderstood by untrained students. It was the years of training and experience in the handling of Department documents which permitted the Foreign Relations staff to prepare an accurate and authoritative printed record. The problems of using raw documents were matters of serious concern in connection with the proposals for interns and photo-offset publication of Foreign Relations.
Dr. Holt asked if the Foreign Relations staff could prepare more complete finding aids to the Department’s files to assist private researchers. Dr. Franklin explained that the Records Management Division of the Department, the logical source for such guides, lacked the personnel to do anything more extensive along this line. He pointed out that Foreign Relations performed precisely the function of a detailed finding aid to the files.
Dr. Varg commented that during its luncheon with Under Secretary Irwin, the Advisory Committee took the opportunity to point out the great contribution which the Foreign Relations series made to historical knowledge. He added that the Committee in its annual meetings dealt mostly with the problems and difficulties of the series, but it should be said that the Committee had a high regard for the high scholarly quality of the series and for the skill of the staff which compiled it.
Dr. Kogan reiterated the essential role of the Foreign Relations series as a finding aid to the files of the Department -- particularly the lot files. Administrative and security problems made it difficult for private researchers to exploit these files usefully. The proliferation of multilateral documents and papers of other government agencies in the files for the post-war period presented another obstacle to the access program. He was convinced that the mounting problems in servicing and exploiting the files combined with the diminution in the size of his staff made necessary some serious restriction on the categories of researchers who could be granted access.
Dr. Franklin pointed out some additional hazards and difficulties in use of lot files by private researchers. Because of the varieties of proscribed materials included in such files, it was necessary that they be screened before release to researchers. Dr. Kogan consulted with the Foreign Relations staff on questions of access and the screening of files. He warned that the chaotic state of the lot files raised the spectre of inadvertent omission of important materials by Foreign Relations and even by outside scholars who might later raise cries of discrimination if subsequent research disclosed documents not previously identified.
In response to a question from Dean May, Dr. Franklin reviewed the current status of the 1945-1949 block of Department indexed files which were being transferred to the custody of National Archives. He pointed out the great difficulty in administering and servicing files dispersed in various records centers throughout the Washington area.
Responding to questions from Dr. Varg, Dr. Kogan briefly reviewed aspects of the work of his staff. In the first 10 months of 1970 there were applications for access from 48 Ph.D. candidates, 4 Masters candidates, 36 researchers for books, and 5 researchers for articles. In addition he had responded to a variety of requests for the declassification of papers from other agencies. His responsibility extended to the review of notes taken by researchers on the foreign-policy aspects of documents in the Division of Modern Military Records of the National Archives. He also had responsibility for the records of certain wartime agencies such as the Office of War Information and the War Refugee Board, which were in the custody of the Department of State.
Dr. Varg conceded that too many student-researchers were wasting their time in the files. He inquired whether the Committee could help in some way to prepare researchers for their work in the files. Dr. Kogan stressed that the basic prerequisite was for researchers to study Foreign Relations thoroughly before beginning their examination of the raw files. Dr. Franklin expressed anxiety that too many untrained students were seeking access to the files. In view of the limitations of time and personnel, it might be necessary to be more restrictive in granting access to the files beginning with 1946.
Dr. Smyth observed that the British historian D. C. Watt had been instrumental in the action of his government in establishing a 30-year rule for access to documents. Watt had made much of the fact that British scholars were obliged to use Foreign Relations in order to discover the story of British foreign policy.
Dr. Franklin noted that the British action would help to keep Foreign Relations ahead of the 30-year rule. He said that it was very helpful for the United States and the United Kingdom to maintain the same pace in granting access to the files.
Dr. Franklin circulated copies of a detailed and favorable article by Geoffrey Warner in International Affairs, July 1970, reviewing the Foreign Relations volumes for 1945 covering the origins of the “cold war”.
After expressions of appreciation to the members of the staff, the open meeting concluded. The Committee continued in private session.
- 1. Status of Volumes, October 1970.
- 2. Report to the Advisory Committee, Fourteenth Annual Meeting, November 6, 1970.
Report by Dr. S. Everett Gleason, Chief, Foreign Relations Division, to the Advisory Committee Fourteenth Annual Meeting, November 6, 1970
I. Status of the Series and Publication Prospects
Mr. Aandahl’s charts which have been given to you summarize in brief form the present status of the volumes in the Series for the years 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1949.
I will confine my remarks to emphasizing the significance of these figures as they relate to the problems the Series is currently facing.
Perhaps of most concern to the Committee and certainly to the Historical Office is the matter of the time lag, and our hopes of not falling further behind the agreed objective of publishing our volumes twenty years after the events they document.
The picture here is not reassuring. Of the eleven volumes for 1946 four remain unpublished as of this time. Volume I, General: The United Nations has been in clearance since April 1969. No difficulty was encountered within the Department, but Defense has raised a number of critical objections which we are still negotiating - primarily documentation relating to bases, military assistance and the Pacific strategic trusteeship. Until these issues are settled the galleys for this volume can’t go to pages.
The remaining three volumes, two large ones dealing with China, and the third with the Far East exclusive of China, are now in pages and await only indexing which will have been accomplished by the end of this year or early in 1971. Thus in 1970 the 1946 Series lags 24 years plus behind the event.
None of the volumes for 1947 or 1948 have been published, although, as you have noticed, several are in pages or awaiting indexing. There seems little hope, therefore, of doing more than holding the line at 24, and a greater likelihood, because of clearance and technical editing bottlenecks, we shall slip to 25 years or more.
In our efforts to reduce the number of volumes in each annual series, and the number of pages in each volume we are making some progress, though we are still short of the goals we had set. As opposed to the eleven volumes in the 1946 series, we will cover 1947 in eight volumes. We had hoped to cover 1948 similarly in eight, but have been forced to go to nine which is the likely number for 1949 even though the charts show a tentative number of eight.
Regrettably in our efforts to reduce the number of volumes for each year, we have failed in a number of instances in 1947 and 1948 to keep the individual volumes down to the range of about a thousand pages. I’m inclined to apologize for this failing. In certain instances it simply proved impossible to discharge our responsibility to document the major problems of U.S. foreign policy while at the same time achieving our objective of reducing the number and size of the volumes for recent years. You can well imagine which problems we met, in this respect, in such compilations as the Marshall Plan, Western European Union, NATO, the Arab-Zionist controversy, and Aid to Greece and Turkey. Large as these compilations have perforce turned out to be, some of my staff, I am sure, feel that in my attempts to cut out fat, a lot of muscle has had to go too.
In terms of the number of volumes published in recent fiscal years, we have at least improved remarkably over the low point of 3 volumes in FY 1969. In Fiscal 1970 we published 8 volumes. In the present fiscal year we are quite sure we shall publish 7 volumes. For FY 1972 we have scheduled 7 volumes; the same for FY 1973.
Whether we achieve these objectives for the present fiscal year and for coming ones depends in the first instance on ourselves - on the ability of the Foreign Relations staff to deliver manuscript, hopefully covering a year in a year. Critical to the solution of this problem is adequate staff. It has been impossible fully to replace retirements or resignations. Only one new member has been added to the Foreign Relations staff by recruitment outside the Department since the Committee met last November. That is Mr. Mabon. We have had transferred to us from the Current Documents Project, now in abeyance, Evans Gerakas. Meanwhile we shall lose Mr. Smyth at the end of the calendar year and we retain the services of Mr. Reid only on the precarious basis of a retired annuitant whom we could lose at any time either by his choice or the Department’s decision. We may be able to secure for a period of two years, possibly three, the services of two fairly well qualified Foreign Service Officers of which there is a plethora now on hand. We don’t look gift horses in the mouth but Foreign Service Officers rarely meet our minimum requirements and can serve with us for relatively short periods of time. What we need, of course, is permission to recruit outside for replacements for our losses and the addition of two or three new men similarly recruited from outside and meeting our own high standards of performance. At present no outside recruiting is permitted and we are not sanguine that any exception will be granted in our case though we are attempting to obtain one.
Even if it were, there are two other serious roadblocks ahead of us. The first of these is in the area of technical editing of our volumes.
II. Clearance and Technical Editing Problems
Within the Department the technical editing staff available for work on Foreign Relations has now been reduced to three full-time and one part-time editor--the lowest number in more than a decade. This means that much of the technical editing and all of the indexing is now contracted out. The results in the case of the technical editing has been at least satisfactory. This is emphatically not the case with the indexing. The last two indexes sent to us for review were so bad that we could not in our own staff even attempt to rework them into some reasonable form. Both have got to be totally rewritten with the resultant delay and expense. One could wish that the responsible officers would learn from this kind of experience but there are no indications of it.
The other major hurdle is the familiar one of clearance. In most cases clearance within the Department itself has been no worse than in the recent past. The elapsed time runs all the way from 13 months to the desired 3. Our main problems, clearance-wise, have currently been with the Defense Department and the National Security Council. Defense clearance has never in my experience been expeditious or easy, but until recently Defense did confront us with seemingly reasonable arguments for documents they wished us to delete. In the course of the last year, however, we have met with some demands for deletion by Defense which could really endanger the credibility and authority of the Series. This new caution on the part of the Joint Chiefs especially seems to us to derive not from concrete objections on security or other legitimate grounds, but on the sensitivity of the military to current public criticism, and on the desire, as the phrase goes, to show a low profile. This, of course, we can’t prove but whatever the cause of this new caution it can be very damaging to Foreign Relations.
Even more serious has been our failure, thus far, to get permission from the NSC to publish documents originated by that body. This has held up the printing of Vol. III, 1947, since December 1968 when clearance began.
The Committee will realize the threat this poses for the Series if it is aware that within two years of the establishment in 1947, the NSC had become the ultimate arbiter of practically every major problem in U.S. foreign policy. It seems to most of us impossible for the series to continue if it builds up the arch of foreign policy documentation only to leave the Keystone out. I can only assure the Committee that we are doing our utmost and will continue to try to solve this problem. Failure to do so would seem to me to be nothing less than a disaster for Foreign Relations.
But I have taken too much of the Committee’s time already. In closing I can only apologize that over the years my reports tend to contain a monotonous similarity. They are full of problems and almost bereft of solutions. But we can discern no easy solutions and can only hope that continuous plugging away at our troubles may ultimately succeed in reducing if not eliminating them.
If the Committee has specific questions about my report and the charts which have been given them, the members of the staff will be only too pleased to attempt to answer them.
- Substitute for Dr. Dillard, now serving on the World Court.↩