Statement for the Record on the Nomination of Allen Weinstein to Become Archivist
of the United States
July 22, 2004
Although the Society of American Archivists (SAA) would have preferred a process
in which we were permitted to testify at the hearing regarding the appointment
of Allen Weinstein to become the next Archivist of the United States, we thank
the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs for the opportunity to comment.
The choice of a qualified nominee to become the Archivist of the United States
is an important decision that ultimately benefits all Americans by ensuring
that our history will be preserved and that our citizens will be able to hold
their government accountable for its actions and decisions through the careful
and impartial management of the records of government.
To that end, we express our intent to cooperate with Professor Weinstein
and to work with him if he is appointed Archivist of the United States.
However, we also wish to convey again the strong reservations that
the Society of American Archivists and thirty other archives, history, and
have expressed about the manner in which this nomination was made. As noted
in a Statement developed by SAA, the National Association of Government Archives
and Records Administrators, and the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators
(issued shortly after the April 8, 2004, announcement of Professor Weinstein’s
nomination), Congress created the National Archives and Records Administration—and
the position of Archivist of the United States—to be both independent
and non-partisan. In the National Archives Act (Public Law 98-497), Congress
intended that filling the position of Archivist of the United States should
involve an open process, with consultation with appropriate professional organizations
that could speak from knowledge and experience concerning the qualifications
of nominees. Attached are copies of the “Statement on the Nomination
of Allen Weinstein to Become Archivist of the United States”(including
the names of the organizations that supported it), as well as “Joint
Statement on Selection Criteria for the Archivist of the United States” and “Joint
Statement on Questions to Ask the Nominee for Archivist of the United States.” We
ask that these documents be entered into the permanent record of these hearings.
It is our view that this nomination was undertaken outside both the
letter and the spirit of the law. We believe that the evidence is clear that the White
House effectively removed John Carlin when it asked him for a letter of resignation
in December 2003 after having already identified a replacement in the fall
of that year. It is within the power of the President to remove the Archivist,
but if he takes this action, the law calls for him to provide Congress with
an explanation of his reasons for doing so. To date, no such explanation has
been provided. We hope that the Committee will ask the White House to fulfill
its obligation under the law rather than create another precedent that erodes
the power and authority of the United States Congress.
We also hope that the Committee will begin working with interested professional
associations to establish a more formal procedure that can be used
for future nominations. Development in advance of a list of qualifications and other considerations
would make the process smoother and ensure that the Archivist position does
not become politicized.
Let us be clear: We do not believe that the manner in which the nomination
has been handled reflects negatively on Professor Weinstein or his interest
in this position. But we do believe that the failure to follow the process
outlined in law threatens the tradition of independence and non-partisanship
that enables the Archivist of the United States to fulfill his obligations
effectively to the benefit of all Americans.
We offer Professor Weinstein our best wishes and our hand of friendship and
cooperation. Should he be appointed, the Society of American Archivists and
other professional organizations that have an interest in his work will do
everything in our power to support him in leading the National Archives and
Records Administration, to offer advice and counsel if he requests it, to share
our expertise and experience with him, and, if necessary, to make every effort
to ensure that he is treated better by future administrations than his predecessor
has been by this one.
Timothy L. Ericson, President, on behalf of
The Society of American Archivists
527 South Wells Street, Fifth Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60607