Joint Statement on Selection Criteria for the Archivist of the United States
The Society of American Archivists
The Archivist of the United States leads one of the most significant non-partisan agencies of the United States government, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). As custodian of the nation’s essential legal and historical records, NARA performs a critical role in:
The individual holding this trust on behalf of the American people must hold the highest possible confidence of the people in his/her ability to fulfill these duties in an open, fair, and nonpartisan manner.
With the announcement that Archivist of the United States John Carlin will be stepping down and that President George W. Bush has nominated Professor Allen Weinstein to be the next Archivist, the review of Professor Weinstein’s qualifications for this position becomes a paramount concern. The next Archivist must address both the leadership and management challenges at NARA and the critical challenge of stewardship of the nation’s archival record in today’s rapidly changing electronic information environment. In order to ensure this result, the nomination and confirmation process must conform to legal requirements and must address concerns raised by professional archivists, records managers, and historians concerning the person nominated to be Archivist of the United States.
The leadership of SAA, NAGARA, and COSHRC offer the following joint recommendations on the selection of the next Archivist of the United States.
On April 8, 2004, the White House nominated Dr. Allen Weinstein to become the next Archivist of the United States. Prior to the announcement, there was no consultation with professional organizations of archivists or historians. This is the first time since the National Archives and Records Administration was established as an independent agency in 1985 that the process of nominating an Archivist of the United States has not been open for public discussion and input. We believe that Professor Weinstein must—through appropriate and public discussions and hearings—demonstrate his ability to meet the criteria that will qualify him to serve as Archivist of the United States.
When former President Ronald Reagan signed the National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-497), he said that, “the materials that the Archives safeguards are precious and irreplaceable national treasures and the agency that looks after the historical records of the Federal Government should be accorded a status that is commensurate with its important responsibilities.” Earlier in 1984, when the National Archives Act was being discussed, Senate Report 98-373 cautioned that if the Archivist was appointed “arbitrarily, or motivated by political considerations, the historical records could be impoverished [or] even distorted.”
P. L. 98-497 clearly states that, “The Archivist shall be appointed without regard to political affiliations and solely on the basis of the professional qualifications required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office of Archivist.” In 1984, House Report 98-707 noted, “The committee expects that [determining professional qualifications] will be achieved through consultation with recognized organizations of archivists and historians.” The law also states that when the Archivist is replaced, the President “shall communicate the reasons for such removal to each House of Congress.” President Bush has not given a reason for the change, and there is no evidence to suggest that it is being made because of John Carlin’s resignation.
SAA, NAGARA, and COSHRC recommend to the President and the White House Personnel Office that they:
SAA, NAGARA, and COSHRC call on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs to schedule open hearings on this nomination in order to explore more fully:
Suggested Selection Criteria
In evaluating the nomination of Professor Allen Weinstein, or any other nominee, as the next Archivist of the United States, SAA, NAGARA, and COSHRC believe that the following qualifications are essential for this important position of public trust:
Leadership and Advocacy
Professional Knowledge and Values
Personal Expertise and Reputation