Minutes of Historical Advisory Committee Meeting, November
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 3, 1978-Minutes. The referenced briefing papers are not posted. The minutes were approved by HAC Chair Bernard Cohen on January 17, 1979.
Minutes of the 1978 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
American Historical Association
- Dr. Lloyd C. Gardner, Professor of History, Rutgers University
- Dr. Mack Thompson, Executive Secretary, American Historical Association (in place of Dr. Norman A Graebner)
- Dr. Betty Miller Unterberger, Professor of History, Texas A & M University
American Political Science Association
- Dr. Bernard C. Cohen, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin
- Dr. Harold K. Jacobson, Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan
American Society of International Law
- Dr. Alona E. Evans, Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College
- Ambassador John R. Stevenson, Sullivan & Cromwell, New York
Other Persons Present
The Bureau of Public Affairs:
- William D. Blair, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
The Office of the Historian (HO):
- David F. Trask, The Historian (Executive Secretary of the Advisory Committee)
- Fredrick Aandahl, The Associate Historian
- William Z. Slany
- John P. Glennon
- Arthur G. Kogan
- David H. Stauffer
- Neal H. Petersen
- Allen H. Kitchens
- David W. Mabon
- Charles S. Sampson
- N. Stephen Kane
- Paul Claussen
- Nina J. Noring
- David M. Baehler
- Lynn K. Fliakas
- Ruth Harris
- Dana J. Johnson
- Edward C. Keefer
- Ronald D. Landa
- Robert J. McMahon
- Aaron D. Miller
- Carl N. Raether
- William F. Sanford, Jr.
- Harriet D. Schwar
- Stanley Shaloff
- Louis J. Smith
- Sherrill B. Wells
The Freedom of Information Staff:
- Barbara Ennis, Director
- Joan M. Lee, Appeals Officer
The Foreign Affairs Document and Reference Center (FADRC):
- William Price, Director
- Frank M. Machak, Chief, Document and Reference Division
The National Archives and Records Service (NARS):
- Allen Thompson, Chief, Declassification Division
- Milton O. Gustafson, Chief, Diplomatic Branch
- Dane J. Hartgrove, Archivist, Diplomatic Branch
Department of State press release No. 384, October 10, 1978, provided for open and closed portions of the meeting, but no closed portion was held. The following persons from the general public attended the meeting: Professor Jules Davids, Georgetown University; Professors Wayne S. Cole and George O. Kent of the University of Maryland; and Ilana E. Stern.
First Session--9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Room 1205, Department of State
Greetings and Selection of Chairperson for FY 1979
Mr. Trask called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m., welcomed the members of the Advisory Committee, and introduced Mr. Blair, who explained that he was filling in for the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Hodding Carter III. Mr. Blair said that this was both a difficult and promising time for the Office of the Historian, which made the counsel of the members of the committee and those they represented especially important. He had good and bad news to report. The good news was that this was a creative and fertile time for HO. He pointed in particular to the introduction of word-processing equipment, the feasibility study of microform as a supplement to printed volumes, efforts to gain greater access to documents of other agencies, and the impact of Executive Order 12065 on classification and declassification of records. His own view was that under the Executive Order, which was to become effective on December 1, the bulk of records used in preparation of the series Foreign Relations of the United States would be declassified within 20 years.
The bad news, according to Mr. Blair, was that budgetary pressures were as tough as or tougher than at any time he could remember, and the outlook for a major improvement was not good. He stressed that the Department took the counsel of the Committee very seriously, adding that the briefing papers supplied to the members this year were in response to their concern about using their time more effectively.
Mr. Trask, noting the crowded agenda, asked the committee to select a chairperson for the forthcoming year. Mr. Gardner expressed the Committee’s happiness at being present, and said that he wished to endorse everything Mr. Blair had said concerning the Committee’s importance. Mr. Gardner nominated Mr. Cohen as Chairperson. The nomination was seconded by Mr. Stevenson, and Mr. Cohen was elected by acclamation. Mr. Trask and Mr. Blair thanked Mr. Gardner for his service as Chairperson during the past year.
General Developments (Briefing Paper No. 1)
Mr. Trask stated that it had been a year of great activity and change in the Office of the Historian. To give advice, the Committee must have information, and the distribution of briefing papers in advance was intended to allow more time for comments and suggestion at the meeting. Mr. Trask summarized some of the major developments in HO during the past year. The reorganized Office had shaken down and appeared to be working as well as one might hope. Contract historians were providing additional compilation time, as well as professional stimulus and colleagueship. The Office had been able to complete its word processing and electronic typesetting system, and the printing money thus saved had been used to hire contract historians. The Office had made considerable process on microform feasibility studies. HO’s outreach had also been improved, and this provided ongoing and useful association with the user community.
Mr. Trask expressed pleasure at the continuing praise the Foreign Relations series had received, and noted that this was an incentive for further improvement. Executive Order 12065 provided an institutional basis for the acceleration of the series. The Office, he said, continued to contribute to the research needs of the Department, although the contributors to this program were not recognized outside the Department. Mr. Trask noted that the joint Soviet-American publication project had achieved significant breakthroughs after a difficult start. He felt certain it would be a landmark in cultural diplomacy and in scholarship. In all the activities of HO he acknowledged the support of the Bureau of Public Affairs and the Department.
Mr. Trask asked for comments and questions on briefing paper No. 1. Mr. Gardner asked whether the Linolex word processing system was now fully operative. Mr. Trask replied that the Office had completed its pilot study, working on an actual volume. There had been administrative problems in acquiring machinery, but these were well on the way to resolution. He expected the system to be ahead of schedule by the end of the current fiscal year. Mr. Gardner asked if any volumes had yet been completed by this method. Mr. Trask then introduced Ms. Wells, who was responsible for the HO Secretariat staff, and asked her to comment on the progress of the Linolex operation. Ms. Wells stated that of the first volume to be keyboarded in HO under the system (volume I for 1952-1954), 984 manuscript pages had been typed and corrected, 925 had been typed but not corrected, and 495 were still to be typed. In answer to Mr. Gardner’s query as to when Linolex processing of this volume had begun, Ms. Wells said the work had started in March 1978. Mr. Trask remarked that he was very well pleased with the system and fully confident of its feasibility. It was the key to HO’s future plans.
Mr. Gardner asked for an estimate of the number of Foreign Relations volumes HO expected to process each year on the system. Mr. Trask answered that he hoped as many as 10 volumes a year could be completed if personnel turnover was kept down, but plans were to produce six per year. HO had built redundancy factors into the word processing system by designating personnel who could be used as backstops in case problems arose. A further complication was that the security people were concerned about the susceptibility of the system to microwave intelligence. Ms. Wells then noted that about 60 percent of the word processing for 1952-1954, Volume I, had been completed in full, and she hoped the entire volume would be completed by January 1979.
Mr. Gardner observed that, although the processing of this volume was taking from March through autumn to complete, the system would have to produce a volume every 1.2 months in order to do 10 volumes per year. Mr. Trask agreed, and noted that he expected the word processing group to be able to produce 250 pages per week, when fully in operation. The Office had the capability to do 350 pages per week, provided the support staff was completely filled. Mr. Slany added that the word processing program had begun in March, and that this autumn the average rate for operators reached 5 pages per hour. [The start-up experimentation has now been completed. It is anticipated that the system, when fully equipped and staffed, can process between 10,000-15,000 printed pages per year, a rate of more than sufficient to produce planned volumes, unless the size and number of such volumes should be revised.]
Mr. Gardner asked whether it took time to train operators, and he wondered what would happen if an operator left. Mr. Slany responded that while training did not take a great deal of time, it took time for operators to reach their maximum speed on the machine. In answer to Mr. Cohen’s inquiry as to how proofreading was done, Mr. Trask said that the committee would receive a demonstration of the word processing equipment later in the day. Mr. Aandahl then briefly described the technical processing of the manuscript.
Ms. Evans asked whether the HO staff was doing much research for use within the Department of State, and whether research would slow down the production of Foreign Relations. Mr. Trask replied that there was an unsatisfactory ratio between Foreign Relations and the research effort. Acceleration of the series, which would take a few more years, would allow a more favorable ratio. He stated that the Office had not done so much research as in the past, although some of the research was on exceedingly important subjects that reflected current high priority items for the Department, such as the Camp David negotiations and Presidential trips to the Middle East and Africa. He mentioned that Mr. Kitchens’ history of the Sinai Support Mission had been declassified and prepared for publication.
Mr. Stevenson asked to what extent this research was requested by other offices and to what extent it was originated by HO. Mr. Trask answered that it worked both ways, but more often than not HO responded to requests from elsewhere in the Department. He said that although the resources of the Office were limited, users seemed pleased with the product. Mr. Stevenson asked whether the users of HO’s research were spread throughout the Department or concentrated in one area. Mr. Trask answered that the pattern of research moved according to the rise and fall of issues. Lately it had concentrated on the Middle East, reflecting the Department’s interests in that area. Nina Noring had compiled an extensive project on the Middle East for 1973. HO Research also dealt with such issues as ecology, oceans, science, and technology. Mr. Stevenson asked if HO was involved in any joint projects. Mr. Trask said that the Office had not worked closely with other areas of the Department in its research, but its work dovetailed with research in other U.S. Government agencies. He mentioned as an example the Soviet-American project, in which the National Archives and Smithsonian Institution were also participating. Interagency collaborative research was likely in the future, given the interrelationship of problems. Mr. Stevenson asked whether the Policy Planning Staff ever made requests for research. Mr. Trask replied that there had been a close and extensive relationship with the Policy Planning Staff in connection with a project on human rights.
Mr. Cohen referred to Briefing Paper No. 1, page 1, paragraph 4, and asked whether there had in fact been a drift away from work on research to work on Foreign Relations. Mr. Trask said that there was misperception on this issue, and that such a drift had begun a long time ago. He had felt when he came to the Department that the research program ought to be thought about. He himself might inadvertently have given the impression in the past that some additional research would be undertaken, but this was not the case. The trend has been in the opposite direction, consistent with the acceleration and increased complexity of Foreign Relations. Mr. Trask noted that he had been the principal culprit in withdrawing resources from research to Foreign Relations, because he believed that only when the series had caught up to a 20-year line would there be enough time and energy for an adequate program of research. The Advisory Committee received two memoranda demonstrating the trend toward more commitment of budget and personnel to compilation, especially since 1976. He added that the research function was not lying fallow in the interim. The Office continued to experiment with ideas and methods. The research projects HO was turning out were very good but few in numbers. A great tragedy, Mr. Trask believed, was that the Department of State desperately needed research based on historical perspective. HO was the one body that could help. The major research component of the Department, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, did research on other countries, not on the policy process.
Mr. Gardner asked whether cutting the number of pages had helped to accelerate publication of the series. Mr. Trask said that the triennial approach had had that effect. Mr. Aandahl said that HO needed to get better control of the total product. For many years, until the volumes for 1946, the series had been relatively unplanned. The volumes were now including more material on the formulation of policy at high levels, and less on operational details.
Mr. Gardner cited the Foreign Relations volume on Israel for 1948, noting that it had received wide and deserved praise in the academic community. Because it was done so thoroughly, the Office had been able to refute inaccurate information. There was a danger in presenting only the main outlines and therefore eliminating the kind of detail which made the Israel volume so useful. By arbitrarily limiting pages in advance the series risked opening itself to a decrease in quality and to scholars’ criticisms that important documents were left out.
Mr. Aandahl said that the office was able to make exceptions in the matter of pages, and that the treatment being given to the Suez Canal Crisis was an example. Mr. Blair said that Mr. Aandahl’s point was absolutely right. The Department might get caught up in its own projected page figures, but the projections were not sacrosanct. It was only necessary for those who wrestled with budgets to have an idea of the total product. In the past, the Department had made some conservative page estimates, which it now found it could exceed.
Mr. Trask said that some of HO’s planning was based on the hope that it could use microfiche supplements. If the feasibility study showed that this was not a good idea, the Office would have to rely entirely on the printed word. If HO was not able to expand coverage through microfiche by five- or ten-fold, it would need to rethink the process immediately. The Office could make changes and reprogram its resources and staff energies at later stages. Plans even for the 19551957 triennium were not set in concrete, and the Office would be glad to have the thoughts of the members of the Committee on the subject of pages. Any expansion of a large nature would, he reminded the Committee, offset the delivery date of future Foreign Relations volumes.
Mrs. Unterberger asked if what was being contemplated was an expansion of printed pages or merely a reallocation of existing page units. Mr. Trask stated that HO planned to produce at least 20,000 printed pages for 1955-1957. [Recent counts suggest that this estimate may be low.] This figure could be raised or lowered. He reemphasized that the Office would be happy to receive advice on the subject from the Committee. The microfiche supplement was the very key to planning. If it should prove unfeasible, HO would have to reconsider its program.
Mr. Blair said that the figure of 20,000 pages for the 1955-1957 triennium was an example of flexibility. A figure of between 12,000 and 14,000 pages had been loosely thrown around last year, but that was an overconservative budgetary projection. The new figure also reflected the concern about page cuts expressed by the Advisory Committee and others during the past year. Mr. Trask added that last year HO had been cautious so that it would not be overpromising. People had mistakenly assumed that the Office was talking about hard decisions when it was talking only about loose projections and planning figures. HO’s desire was to publish as much as possible in whatever format. The question was which mode of presentation would satisfy the whole range of user constituencies.
Mr. Cohen asked that discussion of microfiche be continued later, and there was general agreement.
Access Matters (Briefing Papers No. 2a and 2b)
Mr. Trask then turned to the question of access to the records of the Department and other agencies. He believed that great progress was being made in this area, and pointed to a conversation on this question that he and other members of the staff had had the previous day with representatives of the National Security Council. The objectives in seeking greater access were to expand other-agency coverage and to expand the usefulness and helpfulness of annotation as a guide to future research.
Citing the declassification of some portions of the Forrestal Diaries by the Defense Department as an example, Mr. Gardner asked whether HO would support a scholar’s request for the opening of the Dulles material at Princeton University for the 1950-1954 period, now that the State Department central files for that period were in the process of being transferred to the National Archives. Mr. Blair responded that HO would be glad to see the Dulles material opened, but because the material pertained to events also covered by records of the Department of State and other agencies, expedited review would be difficult to obtain. Mr. Kogan remarked that the Dulles collection at Princeton consisted largely of copies of Department of State documents. Princeton had no authority over the material. The principles for declassification of this material would be the same as for declassification under the new Executive Order. The guidelines would probably be sent to Princeton. Mr. Trask added that the question of what was a historical record and what was not was tangled. The new Executive Order dealt with the question of Presidential Papers, and its provisions were a victory for proponents of openness. Mr. Trask then commended Mr. Kogan as one of the leading experts in the entire Government on records policy, and introduced Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Allen Thompson of the National Archives and Records Service (NARS), who had joined the meeting.
Mr. Blair said it was expected that within the next few months the National Archives would accession the 1950-1954 block of Department of State central files. Mr. Stevenson asked whether the Freedom of Information Act was the only way to obtain declassified records less than 20 years old, and Mr. Kogan replied that this was the case, except for the mandatory review of Presidential records. Mr. Stevenson asked what percentage of State Department material was classified. Mr. Kogan and Mr. Trask said that for the period 1950-1969 the Department of State had an estimated 78 million pages of documents, of which 27 million were classified.
Mr. Trask introduced Mr. Price and Mr. Machak of FADRC, who had joined the meeting. Mr. Price observed that in terms of implementing the General Declassification Schedule (GDS) which had gone into effect in 1972, time was overtaking his operation. FADRC must get together with the Bureau of Public Affairs to discuss the problem of making available to the public those documents that in 1972 had been scheduled for release in six years.
Executive Order No. 12065 and Transfer of 1950-1954 Records (Briefing Papers No. 3 and 4)
Mr. Trask introduced Mrs. Ennis, Director of the Freedom of Information Staff, who joined the meeting. Mr. Blair pointed out that within Executive Order 12065, the most important item as far as scholars were concerned was the provision for the release of most documentation after 20 years. In order to implement this provision, the Department of State was about to take some fairly revolutionary steps, which involved removing the declassification function from the various bureaus and centralizing it in one central staff. Mr. Blair commented that, in his personal opinion, this plan would be adopted in the near future. [The new system has since been adopted.] It would be an enormous step forward by way of implementing the 20-year line of the new Executive Order. Mr. Blair also explained that the President had allowed Executive agencies ten years to reach the 20-year line, but the Department planned to reach it in half a dozen years.
Mr. Gardner asked about the sort of input the Office of the Historian would have on the central staff. Mr. Blair responded that, in his personal opinion, the Office would continue to play an indispensable role. A steering committee would be formed, headed by the Under Secretary of State for Management, and the Bureau of Public Affairs would be involved in that committee. The central staff would screen a selection by HO from the Department’s files and draft guidelines for the declassification program of the National Archives. Mr. Gardner asked whether Executive Order 12065 would help to clear away Foreign Relations clearance problems. Mr. Blair replied that it was a great step forward. It would be a drastic shock to many desk officers to learn that the President wanted documents declassified after 20 years. Mr. Mack Thompson asked why, if documents could be cleared under the Freedom of Information Act, they could not simply be released without going through the FOI process, Mrs. Ennis stated that documents had to be reviewed on an item-by-item basis, but that most FOI requests were successful. Mr. Price added that under the General Declassification Schedule, documents would soon be made available automatically. Mr. Mack Thompson asked for an elaboration of the restraints on getting the record out. Mr. Blair responded that the problem in one word was resources. Mr. Price agreed and expanded his earlier remarks concerning the General Declassification Schedule by noting that even though it provided for the release of 80 percent of the documentation after six years, that group would not include the most important foreign policy documentation. Mr. Machak confirmed the latter point and noted that under Executive Order 11652, FADRC had had to prepare annual declassification lists of all documents released.
Mr. Machak then described the problems involved in making documents declassified under the GDS available to the public. The task of segregating the declassified material from the main body of files would become much easier once the period of computerized record keeping had been reached. Before this time, however, FADRC would have a resource problem, and the Committee should remember that FADRC’s first duty was to service the information needs of the Department of State. FADRC looked to the National Archives for help in providing scholars with documentation. One problem was that records managers had not yet reached an educated judgment as to how long an agency needed to retain records. Most agencies currently operated on a 20-year retention basis. Mr. Gustafson said that the National Archives wanted to accession records as soon as they were no longer needed by the originating agency and as soon as they could be opened to the public. Mr. Stevenson inquired again about the resource question, and observed that a system of automatic declassification ought to be much cheaper to administer than the FOI operation. Mr. Trask noted that when Congress drafted the Freedom of Information Act, it had persons with individual interests in mind rather than scholars with general interests. This fact had complicated the situation ever since, because the FOI Act was the only way for scholars to gain access to government documents before they were subject to automatic review. The multiplicity of systems for the review of documents made it exceedingly difficult for records managers.
Mr. Price recalled the paper explosion after Pearl Harbor. The files prior to the introduction of the GDS and the Department’s Automated Data System caused particular problems, but once FADRC reached the computerized period, it would be a simple matter to segregate the material and “repackage” the documents. Plans had not yet been made for the computerized period but were under examination. Mr. Trask noted that the Department hoped to reach the 20-year line well before the 10-year mandate.
Mr. Gardner remarked that the subject reminded him of “Magic.” Two years ago, he had learned from a representative of the National Security Agency that it still held documents relating to Pearl Harbor that were not in the public domain. Mr. Gardner wondered what other material was still being withheld. He then asked whether Foreign Relations clearance problems were currently greater or lesser than during the period the 1949 China volume was withheld. Mr. Trask referred the question to Mr. Glennon, who responded, with reference to the present difficulties, by saying, “Clearance stinks.” Mr. Gardner then asked how the new system was going to break down the clearance blockage. Mr. Blair replied that the job would be done not by desk officers but by a central declassification staff, composed of individuals who had been Foreign Service officers. The staff would work full time on declassification matters. Mr, Blair felt that the central staff was a great step forward and that it would gain expertise and take a dispassionate approach to declassification.
Mr. Trask explained that the Department of State in adopting the central staff was producing economies of scale. In his opinion, resources were 90 percent of the access problem; clearance was only 10 percent. Nervousness accompanied periods of change, and the Department was operating in a period of much greater openness than before. A good deal of sentiment for openness did exist in the Department. He had great hopes that the new Executive Order would make a measurable difference. Mr. Blair cautioned that the millennium had not arrived. Mr. Price pointed out that under the new system, at least a decision about a document would be reached one way or the other, instead of the long delay in decision-making that was currently the case.
Mr. Trask asked Mr. Allen Thompson of NARS to comment on the new guidelines that were to be written. Mr. Thompson replied that NARS also viewed the new Executive Order as a major step forward, but had reservations concerning its ability to cope with the anticipated deluge of paper. NARS estimated that it would take 10 years to make the transition. In the world of the 20-year line, Mr. Thompson noted, more categories of documents would be withheld than at 30 years, and NARS would need more guidance than before on what should be withheld. His office had no idea of what percent of the documents would be withheld at 20 years, but it was obvious that the provision exempting foreign government information would mean that a very high percentage, probably 10 percent, would be held back. This would require a substantial amount of declassification work at 30 years. He added that NARS had neither the money nor the personnel to do the review required under the new Executive Order, and the 30-year line would remain until the resources were obtained.
Mr. Slany stated that intelligence matters had become a larger part of the Foreign Relations series, and that the series would have to be rethought in terms of what the users wanted from it. Mr. Gardner felt that former Foreign Service officers would be leery of reversing clearance decisions already made on intelligence material. Mr. Allen Thompson stated that 90 percent of the material withheld beyond 30 years related to intelligence. The Government was going to continue to withhold intelligence documentation for a longer period than the historical community would wait for Foreign Relations. Mr. Gardner commented that intelligence matters played an increasingly important role in recent U.S. foreign policy, and that what was being said about clearance at the meeting was very serious and bad news. Mr. Blair agreed with Mr. Gardner and said he had no solution to offer. Mr. Trask felt that the new system would produce a centralization throughout the Government that would help HO obtain documents from other agencies. Hopefully, such highly trained personnel as those in Mr. Thompson’s office at the National Archives would gradually replace retired Foreign Service officers as members of the central staff. Mr. Blair referred to the recent decision to place the central staff in the Bureau of Administration. He observed that some members of the Bureau of Public Affairs felt that their Bureau had been created by God to handle declassification, but God had chosen otherwise. Mr. Blair felt that the decision to place the central staff in the Bureau of Administration was probably for the best, because the steering committee would be headed by an Under Secretary, and this would provide a bureaucratic strength to the operation.
Russo-American Documentary History (Briefing Paper No. 5)
Mr. Trask introduced Mr. Sampson and Mr. Landa as the two principal HO historians working on the Russian-American documentary history project, acknowledged Mr. Gustafson’s role as an American editor of the project, and pointed out that Mr. Slany had also been deeply involved. He commended the National Archives for its leadership in the enterprise. Mr. Cohen remarked that he could understand Mr. Trask’s enthusiasm for such a project and asked whether there were any comments concerning Russian cooperation that had not been expressed in the briefing paper. Mr. Sampson observed that getting documents from the Soviets had been a bit like pulling teeth, but that they had become more cooperative over time. At first there had been hesitancy and anxiety on both sides over what the project would actually involve. As the scope of the project grew, cooperation between the two sides increased. Mr. Gustafson explained that the original concept had been much more limited: both sides would separately collect documentation, compare their findings, and then select from this group certain documents for publication in a rather slim volume. The Department of State had desired something more, however, and with its influence and resources, better documents were obtained than before. The final product will consequently be much better than originally intended.
Mr. Trask observed that the project involved a carrot-and-stick process, and that it was part of the cultural diplomacy of the United States. Problems could still arise if there was a change in U.S.-Soviet relations that would prevent publication of the final product. Mr. Mack Thompson volunteered that while speaking with Tikhvinsky, the principal Soviet editor for the project, he had learned that the Soviets were thinking of two volumes instead of one. Mr. Thompson inquired as to what the United States attitude was toward this. Mr. Trask responded that the subject of a second volume could possibly become a subject of negotiation in subsequent talks. Currently, the Soviets were contemplating a second volume on World War II or the last ten years. Many possibilities were involved and at some point the American side might discuss them with the Soviet side.
Mr. Trask suggested that similar collaborative efforts might be worked out with other parts of the world, such as a Middle Eastern area or Japan, and noted that the Japanese had already expressed interest in the idea. Mr. Trask then expressed his belief that the Russian-American project was of enormous political significance. He noted, however, that the resource question was relevant, and that the Office had had to transfer two historians from work on Foreign Relations in order to compile the volume. Mr. Blair advised the Committee that HO had been permitted to make this tradeoff of increasingly scarce resources and engage in the Russian-American project only because a U.S. foreign policy objective was involved: the opening up by a tiny bit of some of the functioning of the Soviet Government by providing access to Soviet archives. This objective did not necessarily apply to other parts of the world. Where no foreign policy objective existed, it would be difficult to justify an expenditure of resources on a similar project. Mr. Gustafson agreed with Mr. Blair that the joint project would help open Soviet archives to U.S. scholars.
Mr. Trask then announced the need to recess this part of the meeting so that the Committee might proceed to the Office of the Historian for a demonstration of the Linolex word-processing system, microfiche technology, and meetings with the staff.
Mr. Allen Thompson added that if any members of the Committee desired to take a look at his declassification operation at the National Archives, it could be arranged either for that day or during a subsequent visit to Washington.
The meeting was recessed until 2 p.m.
Microform Supplements (Briefing Paper No. 6)
Mr. Trask reopened the meeting at 2:18 p.m. and welcomed Ilana Stern, a former member of the Office. Mr. Aandahl said that before discussion of the microform issue, he wished to record a conversation with the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, David D. Newsom, who had hosted the luncheon for the Advisory Committee. Secretary Newsom recalled that in the past he had both cleared some Foreign Relations galleys as a desk officer and had presented Foreign Relations volumes to foreign statesmen. He expressed his hope that there was a reasonable ground between the concern of historians about publishing the foreign policy record and the concern of diplomats about not including especially sensitive material.
Mr. Gardner and Mr. Cohen, referring to earlier remarks by Mr. Slany, asked why documents printed in Foreign Relations volumes would also be included in the proposed microform supplement. Mr. Slany explained that the advantage of doing so was that the scholar would be able to compare the printed text with a facsimile text in order to assure himself that the compilation editor had not distorted the meaning of the document, either through annotation or deletions.
Mr. Trask stated that he was presuming different groups would use the microform edition of the printed volumes. A scholar would be interested mainly in the original documents; he would use the printed volume principally as a guide to the documents. It was a planning assumption that the microform edition was intended primarily for scholars.
Mr. Aandahl noted that a question had arisen at the luncheon concerning the experience of the National Archives with microform. Mr. Gustafson stated that diplomatic records had been microfilmed through 1910; but thus far only selected files with the highest research potential had been microfilmed for subsequent years. The program was based on filming a file only when it was declassified and arranged and could be filmed in its entirety.
Mr. Cole stated that he differed from Mr. Trask over the use of Foreign Relations. He noted that he used the volumes frequently and also did archival research. He considered the volumes to be more than finding aids, however, and often used them for classes for the study of secondary topics where there was no need to go into further depth. He consequently questioned whether the assumption that scholars would rely primarily on the microfiche supplement was indeed a valid one. Mr. Trask replied that he intended no lack of respect for those satisfied with the volumes in their present form. He stated that for individuals such as Mr. Cole, whose main research interest, the domestic side of international politics, did not focus upon State Department documents, the volumes might well be sufficient. However, he reiterated that the microform supplement would be of great utility to scholars in diplomatic history, those studying official relations between states, who desired to pursue given topics in depth. Mr. Aandahl pointed out that the microform supplement would also serve as a clearance tool. If the principal papers in the files were cleared, others would follow.
Mr. Gardner stated that the researcher would not be satisfied to rely solely on 240,000 pages of documents in microfiche. He pointed out that the microfiche would cover many different topics, and that those documents of interest to a particular monographist would still not eliminate his need to visit the National Archives to consult the original files. He believed that although the idea of a supplement was nice, the Office should not undertake the project with the notion that it would make scholars happy. Mr. Slany replied that the supplement was simply another benchmark, a way of capturing more documents, and that it was not intended to make further research unnecessary. Because of the rapid deterioration of files after they were moved to other depositories, it was desirable to capture the results of HO’s research as soon as possible. Many scholars would still have to go to the Archives to do further research. For other Foreign Relations users, the microfiche supplement and printed pages would be enough. The microfiche supplement would improve the value of Foreign Relations, although it was not expected to solve all problems.
Mr. Jacobson asked what time limits had been set for a decision on the issue of a supplement and whether it would be in the form of microfilm or microfiche. He also asked what percentage 240,000 pages represented of the total number of available documents, how the selection would be made, and how much staff time would be allocated to the process. Mr. Trask replied that there would first be a feasibility study. If it was successful, HO would write an options paper and formally propose the project to Mr. Blair. The options paper would include information and suggestions from the Committee. He emphasized that no final decision had been made and that none had been asked for.
Mr. Blair indicated that he was leaning in the direction of the microfiche supplement, and that if the Committee felt the Department was headed in the wrong direction, he would like to hear about it immediately. There were many tradeoffs, but the key one was that within a certain ceiling of money, HO faced an explosion of documentation. It was still possible to stay totally with printed volumes, but with no prospect of an increase in the budget ceiling, there would be a continuous decline in the fraction of the significant record the Department could publish. Should the Department sacrifice something and use part of the budget to publish a much larger number of documents than would be available in the printed edition? Mr. Blair concluded that the answer to this question appeared to be that the Department should use a fraction of the budget for microform. The Department was close to reaching a firm decision, and one would undoubtedly be made before the Committee met again. If the Committee thought these conclusions were wrong, the Department would like to hear their views.
Mr. Trask said that a microform supplement might be used as part of the declassification procedure under the new Executive Order, and that this was why a decision had to be made soon. Mr. Slany pointed out that he did not anticipate that a microfiche supplement would detract in any way from the printed edition. He further explained that under the old system, a compiler would develop a large number of working papers from which he or she would make a final selection for inclusion in the series. Under the new system, the working papers, most of which would go into the supplement, would become the basis for declassifying the files under the new Executive Order. In order to underscore the selective nature of a fiche supplement Mr. Slany stated that from 5 to 10 percent of the total available important documents would be microfiched. Mr. Blair emphasized that production of the microfiche supplement did not entail a separate selection process, but that it would consist of the preliminary selection, which would be made in any case.
Mrs. Unterberger asked whether the use of documents from other agencies would increase clearance problems. Mr. Slany answered that clearance would always be difficult. The Office could nevertheless blank out microfiche frames containing documents that could not be immediately declassified, and later release the unexpurgated original selection when everything had been cleared. Mr. Trask pointed out that the relative ease of blanking out uncleared documents by means of a modern camera gave the microfiche a distinct advantage over the printed volumes, since subsequently cleared material could never be added to printed volumes except through a supplement. He said that by maintaining a master set of microfiche containing all the original documents, the eliminated frames could be easily reinstated in the publicly available microfiche as the withheld material was declassified. In the brief discussion which followed, note was taken of the great advantage to scholars in knowing where documents had been excluded because they had not been declassified.
Mr. Cohen stated that he had concluded that the feasibility question was substantially an economic one. He asked whether a feasibility study had been made on the technical and economic aspects of the microfiche supplement. Was it economically possible, for example, for the Department to sell a single microfiche card at a time for 25 cents? Mr. Slany responded that it was not worthwhile for commercial publishers to sell single microfiche cards, and that they preferred to sell sets. Mr. Trask added that a microfiche card cost far less than a printed page. Mr. Cohen conceded that production costs would probably be less but asked whether distribution costs would not be excessive. More specially, he questioned whether the office could economically sell microfiche cards in small amounts. Mr. Aandahl commented that the Government Printing Office could sell cards for 25 cents. Mr. Trask, however, stated that the Office of the Historian could prepare microfiche masters with its own personnel more cheaply than the Government Printing Office. [Mr. Trask did not mean to imply that HO would market microfiche. HO would make masters available to the publisher. The publisher would manage distribution and sales. Obviously the smaller an order the higher the unit cost to the purchaser as a general rule.] With regard to the merits of the various kinds of microforms, he believed microfiche to be the most efficient. Mr. Cohen agreed but suggested that it was unwarranted to assume that Foreign Relations users would buy microfiche cards even if the Department could sell them. It would be impractical to assume that historians would have microfiche readers at home; they would use their libraries. The Department could not afford to sell a microfiche card for 25 cents, he believed; the cost to the Department, with handling, might be $5.00.
Mr. Trask replied that many historians who used microform documents owned microfilm readers. Such readers cost $100 ten years ago. The more a scholar was involved in multiarchival and multilingual research, the more likely he was to buy his own reader and his own film. The microfiche supplement was aimed at a small group and there was a much broader interest in the printed volumes. However, the supplement provided the research scholar with his own files. Mr. Trask emphasized that the microfiche supplement would be used not only by Americans but also by researchers throughout the world. Scholars, who perhaps could not visit the Archives, would have access to the microfiche supplement. It was a small group, but an important one. Researchers, particularly in the Third World, would find the microfiche edition a treasure.
Mr. Stevenson stated that while he considered the microfiche supplement to be an excellent idea, he was concerned that it might supplant the printed volumes. Mr. Trask responded that there was no thought of this. Mr. Stevenson then stated his interest in more recent documents and asked whether the Current Documents series could be revived. He stated that these volumes, combined with a microfiche supplement containing documents currently available, would be immensely useful to political scientists, the legal profession, and many other interested groups. He felt that the revised Department of State Bulletin was not adequate. In financial terms, Current Documents with a microfiche supplement might save money in the long run by expediting the general declassification process. He expressed the opinion that a revived Current Documents would put pressure on desk officers to declassify materials scheduled to appear in the current volume and would increase the accessioning of documents to the Archives, particularly the materials automatically declassified in six years. He did not think reactivating Current Documents would be that costly.
Mr. Blair replied that ideally he and the HO Staff would like to see the revival of the series and that perhaps the issue should be looked at again. He pointed out that the Bulletin had expanded its scope in order to help fill the gap left by Current Documents. Mr. Blair noted that budgetary limitations were the main impediment to reactivating Current Documents, and that he himself had turned down proposals for its revival because he could not find another operation from which to take the resources. He added that Foreign Relations served as the spearhead in the declassification process. Mr. Blair concluded that the issue was a question of priorities, and asked the Committee whether it would be willing to see resources taken from Foreign Relations to revive Current Documents. Mr. Stevenson then inquired whether the persons who selected documents for the Bulletin could assemble a microform supplement. Mr. Blair replied that perhaps the Bulletin staff could make a better selection of documents, if this would help.
Mr. Gardner returned to the question of the preparation and distribution of the proposed microfiche supplement. He asked whether the Office of the Historian would handle small orders for fiche and whether the Government Printing Office would be willing to take orders for a single microfiche card. He also questioned whether HO could afford the resources that would be needed to review and update a supplement. He pointed out that staff members would have to proofread 240,000 microfiche frames for legibility and completeness, and then periodically revise them, inserting subsequently declassified documents. How, he asked, could the staff meet its current responsibilities to the printed Foreign Relations volumes, do additional research such as that for Russian-American project, and still have time to do justice to microfiche? Mr. Gardner suggested that the feasibility study of microform include a study of HO’s ability to do all these things, and Mr. Blair agreed. Mr. Slany stated that equipment was available that would facilitate the replacement of microfiche frames. He added that with respect to the review and proofreading of documents to be published in microfiche, the Office would exploit the Group Chiefs, who could review the microfiche supplement in addition to their regular review of manuscript for the printed volumes. The actual collection and selection of documents for a microfiche supplement could be efficiently accomplished through the organization of the staff to avoid duplication of effort. With regard to the question of microfiche production and sales, Mr. Slany explained that there were no good answers yet. GPO and commercial producers could give no precise estimates until they knew exactly what the requirements of the Office were. Therefore, a pilot project for the 1955-1957 period needed to be completed before exact costs could be ascertained. Other pilot projects, such as a possible joint Department of State-National Security Council undertaking, could also provide the needed information and could concentrate on documents that were easily reproduced and that did not require a great deal of editing. Mr. Trask stressed the advantage of being able to introduce into a set an entire new microfiche card when previously-deleted documents were declassified, whereas pages could not be added once a printed volume had been published. He reiterated that regardless of the final cost of producing microfiche, it would be much lower than that for printed pages. Mr. Cohen again voiced his skepticism that the Office would be able to afford to sell individual microfiche cards. He stated that as the editor of a professional journal, he had found that the sale of individual reprints resulted in a net loss for the publication because of high bookkeeping and processing costs. He believed the issue needed to be carefully studied. Mr. Trask replied that reprint costs would not be critical because the Federal Government would subsidize microfiche production and distribution much as it subsidized publication of the printed volumes.
Mr. Jacobson said that although he favored the microfiche supplement, the Advisory Committee would like a fairly exact estimate both of its cost and of what the same amount of money would achieve if used to augment the printed volumes. The Committee needed this information to be effective in defending the supplement to the scholarly community. Committee members would need to show that a given amount of money allocated to the Foreign Relations series could reproduce, for example, either 1.1 percent of available documents in the printed volumes or a combination of 1 percent on printed pages and an additional 9 percent on microfiche. Mr. Trask replied that Government Printing Office had estimated the cost of reproducing 240,000 document pages on master fiche cards to be $84,000, which included the subsidy element. He added that this figure, which included distribution, was a maximum one. He expressed the hope that majority of supplementary materials would be documents from other agencies but presumed that at first a heavy percentage would originate in the State Department. The total number of documents to be reproduced in both printed and microfiche form would be less than 1 percent of the unpublished material, not 5 to 10 percent. He pointed out, however, that the microfiche supplement would increase the number of published documents tenfold. The estimated cost per frame of microfiche was 35 cents, compared with $60 per printed page under the present system, or $25 per page under the word processing system.
Mr. Gardner questioned whether the value of the microfiche supplement to researchers could really justify the staff time and expense required for its preparation. He was not certain how many researchers in the Third World had access to reader/printers, Even in the United States, he pointed out, reader/printers in libraries seemed to be broken half the time. In doing research, a scholar might need to have as many as three or four Foreign Relations volumes open at one time to compare different documents. One could not use three or four microfiche readers simultaneously. It was difficult to locate documents on fiche cards and even more difficult to compare documents unless one had the money to make copies. In addition, one needed a darkened room. The process was not simple even for Americans accustomed to these problems. The notion that a major tool was being provided to the Third World must be checked out. Mr. Gardner asked why the Office could not concentrate on putting out higher-quality printed volumes on the basis of the new savings under word processing in printing costs, which were down from $900,000 to $300,000 per year. Microform could be left to the National Archives, whose microfilm publications were superbly done. While he recognized the needs the Office was attempting to fill by means of a supplement, he believed that the drain on staff resources presented a real problem. The time required to train contract historians who would serve only a limited time in the Office compounded the problem. Mr. Gardner concluded that he would much prefer to see the HO staff concentrate on maintaining the high standards of the printed volumes than try to do too many things at once.
Mr. Blair replied that if the consensus of the Committee was that microfiche was not an effective research tool, the Department would have to look at it again and perhaps postpone it. In the meantime, the Foreign Relations series would go downhill. With all due respect, the Department could not leave the problems to the National Archives. What the Department produced was what the scholarly community would get. The Department should provide expanded coverage, but it was not locked into any of the figures cited. Mr. Blair stated that what attracted him as a layman, assuming that microfiche was a little more acceptable than Mr. Gardner had described it, was the possibility of experimenting to see if the idea of a supplement was worth pursuing. Mr. Blair was impressed by the fact that 5 to 10 times as many documents could be made available. The figures might be wrong, but that was secondary. The main point was whether or not the experiment was worth making.
Mr. Gardner stated that as he read the figures, the Department could increase the size of the printed volumes and still experiment with microform, because of the savings made under the new word processing system. Mr. Blair agreed that this should be possible. Mr. Trask also agreed, but reemphasized the importance of pursuing the microfiche supplement. His generation had pioneered in using fiche and had made a great contribution to the study of international relations. Foreign Relations for the year 1898 had only a couple of cocktail conversations on the Spanish-American War.
Mr. Trask said that in the past microfilm and microfilm readers had often been miserable to work with. He also noted that microfiche legibility could present some difficulty in the future supplement. But he emphasized that there would be no alternative to the microfiche supplement should it not be produced. Mr, Trask again stressed the importance of the supplement to the Third World, and recalled from his own experience an Indian researcher at the British Public Record Office who ordered documents microfilmed for use at home. He pointed out that making microfiche copies of documents readily available to researchers all over the world would introduce a whole new concept of scholarship.
Mr. Kane stated that the Office must be conscious of the tradeoffs a microfiche program would bring in the allocation of staff time. If the four HO Group Chiefs were indeed to be made responsible for reviewing documents intended for microfiche reproduction, he doubted whether they would have much time to remain active compilers for the printed volumes. Mr. Aandahl replied that perhaps arrangements could be made to have the documents intended for microfiche reviewed outside the Office. Mr. Trask stated that he believed Mr. Kane’s concern to be sound, and added that HO would have to rethink who did what under the new format. The selection and review of documents for the microfiche supplement was a complex process. Another element of the feasibility study was to reprogram the tasks of people in the Office. The next stage would be a pilot project.
At this point Mr. Cohen noted that since the Committee had addressed most of its attention to the first portion of the afternoon agenda, he hoped that there would be enough time to cover the other items. Mr. Trask consequently asked Mr. Aandahl to introduce the next scheduled topic.
FRUS Schedule (Briefing Paper No. 7)
Mr. Aandahl discussed the production schedule, emphasizing recent delays in the declassification of manuscripts. He added that the Office would not be able to maintain its schedule for attaining the 20-year line unless favorable declassification action proceeded more rapidly, and unless adequate resources were continually available. Mr. Aandahl then invited comments from the Committee, and none were forthcoming. Mr. Trask stated that the Office was within shouting distance of finishing the portion of the series covering the 1955-1957 triennium.
McGovern Amendment (Briefing Paper No. 8)
Mr. Trask then turned to the McGovern Amendment, expressing pleasure that Congress had taken note of the Foreign Relations series. He added that the Amendment, which had been introduced without the knowledge of the Office of the Historian, had led Congress to misunderstand the Office’s intentions. He noted that the provision for joint State-Congressional consultation in the final legislation was a positive development which could have relieved the initial misunderstanding had it been allowed to occur earlier. Mr. Gardner said that the Briefing Paper had overstated the Amendment by saying that it precluded the use of microform. He noted that the purpose of the original Senate version of the Amendment, not included in the briefing material, had been to establish a floor on printed pages in the Foreign Relations volumes. Mr. Trask, referring to page 2 of Briefing Paper No. 8, noted that the conference committee report described the original Senate Amendment as seeking to prevent the replacement of printed pages with microfiche. Mr. Gardner quoted testimony of Ben H. Read, Under Secretary of State for Management, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, concerning page cuts in the Foreign Relations series. Secretary Read stated that he had received no budgetary request for the series that had been turned down. He continued that if there had been a change in policy, he would have heard. Mr. Read also promised to let the Foreign Relations Committee know if there was a change in policy.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the formal consultation was to be conducted through the Secretary of State or Mr. Trask. Mr. Trask said he had asked the same question. He wanted to begin the process immediately, and did not think the word “formal” had any significant meaning. Mr. Cole felt that it was not a throwaway word. He believed the Amendment was designed to establish a minimum number of pages for the printed volumes. He further interpreted the Amendment as a warning to the Department not to reduce the number of printed pages too much in behalf of the microfiche supplement, and that if the Department envisioned such a development, Congress would want to discuss it first. Mr. Trask reemphasized the importance of consultation with Congress, and restated his belief that the misunderstanding inherent in the McGovern Amendment would not have arisen if consultation had been instituted earlier. He added that Congress now knew what the Office was doing and vice versa. He pointed out that 1955-1957 volumes would satisfy the page requirements of the original version of the Amendment which stipulated that no three-year triennium of Foreign Relations should have less than two-thirds the number of pages contained in the volumes for 1947-1949. He emphasized that the Office was not locked into a specific number of pages for the 1955-57 period. It was possible to authorize an increase in the number of pages for the 1955-57 triennium from 15,000 to 20,000 if it proved necessary. Mrs. Unterberger expressed surprise that the page limits for the 1955-1957 triennium were so flexible. It was her understanding from last year’s Advisory Committee meeting that the level of 15,000 pages would be an absolute maximum. This was also the understanding of a large number of individuals in the academic community. Mr. Trask apologized for this misapprehension; he hoped to avoid such misapprehensions in the future.
Outreach (Briefing Paper No. 9)
Mr. Trask turned to the Outreach activities of the Office. He stated that through participation in various activities of the scholarly community, the HO staff had developed a better perception of user interest in Foreign Relations. He indicated that one area the Office needed to explore further was the role it could play at the community college level. He pointed out that the outreach program was important for the staff because it tended to relieve the sense of professional isolation and rejection sometimes experienced by official historians. He added that the Office program had staff support, and he felt that the results achieved thus far suggested that the program should be continued. Mr. Trask then asked for comments, and, eliciting none, went on to the next topic.
Strengthening of the Advisory Committee (Briefing Paper No. 10)
Mr. Trask invited comments or suggestions on the composition and functions of the Advisory Committee. He pointed out that changes in the Committee’s charter, if any, must be instituted by December 1978. Mr. Stevenson questioned whether the current term of four years was too long, and suggested a more frequent rotation of members if no increase in the size of the Committee were possible. Mr. Trask replied that fiscal constraints limited the size of the Committee. Mr. Aandahl stated that the length of terms of individual members should not be reduced too drastically, because a member’s first year was mainly devoted to familiarization. Mr. Cohen suggested that a three-year term appeared to be the most reasonable compromise.
Introducing a new subject, Mr. Gardner asked whether the Office had made plans to publish a retrospective volume covering the years 1945 to 1950 and primarily containing Truman Library materials not available when the volumes for these years were compiled. If nothing had been done, he formally requested a feasibility study on the issue. Mr. Glennon replied that a retrospective volume on intelligence for the years 1947-1951 was under discussion. Mr. Petersen mentioned that a manuscript on intelligence had been prepared covering the years 1947 to 1954. It was currently a basis for discussion and review with INR and CIA, but the current clearance outlook was grim, and the Office was not sure how to proceed. Mr. Trask said that as resources became available the Office would consider doing topical but not strictly chronological volumes. Mr. Gardner stated that he favored a chronological approach in cases where a major source of documentation such as the Truman Library had previously been closed to Foreign Relations compilers. He felt that HO would gain tremendous credit from a retrospective volume. Mr. Trask replied that the more such volumes the Office could do, the more pleased it would be. The main problem was one of resources, which the Office would have to subtract from somewhere. One argument against compiling retrospective chronological volumes was that most of the newly-available material would have been absorbed in the work of independent scholars, and was in any event available to the public at the Presidential libraries.
Mr. Aandahl suggested that a microfiche supplement covering earlier material was worth considering. With respect to retrospective volumes, Mr. Trask noted that Professor John Gaddis was currently filling in gaps left by earlier Foreign Relations volumes. However, he felt that HO’s capabilities exceeded those of private scholars in doing justice to this kind of task, and he would like the Office to do such volumes if the time and money could be spared. Mrs. Harris then described her work on intelligence materials for years 1955-1961.
Mr. Trask concluded by paying tribute to the competence of the staff and by introducing the contract historians (Mrs. Harris, Mr. Patterson, Ms. Wells, Ms. Pitts and Mr. McMahon) to the Committee.
Mr. Trask adjourned the meeting at 4:05 p.m. Members of the Committee then met informally to discuss their report.