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U.S. Navy’s History Program “At Risk”

April 13, 2012

The Naval History and Heritage Command is located in the Washington Navy Yard complex.

Core elements of the U.S. Navy’s historical program are “at risk” according to a recent report by the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General’s Office released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The IG’s report on the inspection of the Navy’s History and Heritage Command dramatically reinforces concerns that scholars have had in recent years about the state of the navy’s history program. According to the report, released through a FOIA request by the National Security Archive, historical records and artifacts are housed in a precarious environment, and invaluable archival material is in danger. The History and Heritage Command’s leadership has not been using due diligence to ensure that naval commands and fleets are creating historical records of their ongoing activities. Moreover, according to the IG report, the Navy’s professional historians, archivists, curators, and librarians who work for the history command feel “disenfranchised” because of “their marginalization in decision processes and lack of advancement opportunity.”

Specific problems cited include damage to historical paintings, lack of accreditation to museums, a huge backlog of unprocessed archival collections, and lack of awareness that workers at the Naval Aviation Museum had been exposed to toxic metals. The IG did not make specific recommendations but advised the Navy leadership to establish a panel of historians to provide guidance on a “way ahead” for the program.

For background on the report and information on the crisis in the Navy’s history program, National Security Archive staffers John Prados and William Burr, and Larry Berman, dean of the Honors College at George State University, have prepared detailed comments. “Unredacted” invites further comments from our readers.

Naval Inspector General Command Inspection of Naval History and Heritage Command 15-23 August 2011, For Official Use Only

Comments by William Burr

For years, the Operational Archives at the Naval History and Heritage Command (formerly Naval Historical Center), located at the Washington Navy Yard, have been an extraordinary source of information on the Navy’s role in U.S. history. Most of the records date from the Cold War period including such treasures such as the Chief of Naval Operations “00” files and the papers of Admiral Arleigh Burke. Over the years, the Navy’s archives have been a wonderful source for projects at the National Security Archive on U.S. nuclear policy, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and other topics. Without access to key documents in its holdings a number of the Archive’s Electronic Briefing Books would have been empty shells. Just one example, the Archive’s EBB s, “The Submarines of October,” an EBB on how the Navy tracked Soviet submarines during the Missile Crisis, could not have been prepared without access to the Flag Plot files. The archival staff is unfailingly helpful in assisting researchers as they navigate the Archives’ complex and varied holdings.

Yet, a series of troubling developments raised questions about the overall management of the archives by the History and Heritage Command. The archives are housed in a 19th century building which is plainly not suited for the long-term care of invaluable historical records. Moreover, large portions of the archives are classified and the declassification of this huge backlog is lagging. The Navy’s history program was tardy in complying with the Kyl-Lott Amendments requirements for re-review for Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data. This legislative mandate means that historical records that had previously been available have been impounded and subject to page-by-page review. The contractors who are conducting the review have taken an inflexible approach which undoubtedly wastes taxpayer dollars (see Larry Berman’s discussion below).

That records were impounded came as no surprise (the same thing happened at NARA II, although in a more researcher-friendly way), but the late start, years after the law went into effect was perplexing. If the Command was really an advocate for history, it could have gone to the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy to show that through 2006 adequate security declassification review had already been done of thousands of pages of post-World War II records and that nuclear weapons information had been accounted for. Certainly, it would have been possible to impound temporarily far less material.

More recently, other news about the Navy’s history program has been disturbing, for example, that invaluable tapes of oral history interviews conducted during the war in Iraq are missing. Perhaps they will be recovered, but the historical records of the U.S.-led Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic were never saved or else were destroyed shortly after the Cold War and the command’s sea defense mission ended. This incalculable loss to historians stands in sharp contrast to the excellent SHAPE Archives in Brussels that contain the records of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and which has been progressively declassifying key NATO strategic plans and concepts for public use in the last decade. The History Command cannot be blamed for this loss, but it points to the need for a stronger archival program to ensure that historically significant records are preserved.

Apparently, apprehension about the environment for historical records has led to plans to close the Archives and put the records in storage, which would be bad news for researchers in and out of government. But that is only one element of the History and Heritage Command’s problems. Last fall, I learned that an apparently routine survey by the Navy’s Inspector General had produced a strongly critical report. This was confirmed in a January 2012 Navy Times article about the IG’s action. By then the National Security Archive had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the report.

The Navy did not take long to process the request and the report was released in late March 2012. The IG’s cover memo discloses its major finding: that key elements of the Navy’s history program are “at risk.” Historical records and artifacts are housed in a precarious environment and invaluable material is at risk. The history program’s leadership is not using due diligence to ensure that naval commands and fleets are creating historical records on their ongoing activities. Moreover, according to the IG report, the Navy’s professional historians, archivists, curators, and librarians who work for the History Command feel “disenfranchised” because of “their marginalization in decision processes and lack of advancement opportunity.” Specific problems cited by the IG include damage to historical paintings, lack of accreditation for museums, a huge backlog of unprocessed archival collections, and the Command’s tardiness in recognizing that workers at the Naval Aviation Museum had been exposed to toxic metals.

While the IG was preparing its report, the History Command prepared a “strategic plan” which it put on-line in November 2011.  The IG took the plan into account, but did not change its evaluation. It is easy to understand why the IG may have been unimpressed. For example, the plan calls for fixing what has been broken by new storage arrangements for archival records and artifacts, but it does not establish a priority for making them available to researchers in and outside of the Navy. Further, the plan gives no indication that the Command sees any aspect of naval history that it wants to use its resources to research and write about, either for official or even classified purposes, or for eventual release to the public. While the Army and Air Force have vital and highly productive history programs, that include classified and unclassified histories, the Navy has nothing like that. Sadly, as the IG report implies, the Command’s historians has been left adrift, without a clear mission to produce histories for the Navy leadership or the general public.

According to one close observer, “the strategic plan is a plan for an organization, rather than a plan for history in the Navy.” This raises the question whether the creation of layers of bureaucracy at the Command have eaten up resources that ought to go into the archives and other elements of a sound history program, for example, by using resources to ensure that historians are attached to the Navy’s operational commands. While Air Force and Army commands traditionally have had historians, both civilian and uniformed, the Navy has not followed that practice.

It is lamentable that the historical program of one of the U.S. armed services is in the situation described in the IG report. The IG did not make any specific recommendations to solve the Command’s problems beyond a proposal that the Navy leadership appoint a “blue ribbon panel of eminent historians” to make “independent recommendations … on a way ahead” for the history program. Yet the report amounts to a vote of no confidence in the History and Heritage Command’s leadership from which readers can easily deduce another recommendation: that new leadership is necessary. What the Navy’s leaders need to consider is whether the Command would best be managed by individuals who will be advocates for naval history and who care about history, as demonstrated by a career interest in, and commitment to, naval history. TheCNO and the Secretary of the Navy might also consider whether the Navy would best be served by a stand-alone history program, leaving the museum program to be managed by a special directorate. So far, however, neither the History Command nor the Navy leadership have followed through on the IG’s recommendation.

In 1986, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman hired the eminent historian Ronald Spector (now a Professor at George Washington University) to revitalize the history program. But that was 25 years ago and the Navy’s leadership needs to consider taking a step along the same lines. In this connection, a report prepared by History Associates Inc. in 2000 for Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig remains as relevant today as it was then to the task of recognizing the value of naval history for the service itself and the general public. In the meantime, the Navy ought to find an installation where its historical treasures can be housed safely and made accessible to researchers without undue interruption.

William Burr is a Senior Analyst at the National Security Archive where he directs the Nuclear Documentation Project.

Comments by Larry Berman, Georgia State University

I am not surprised that the Navy’s Inspector General has produced a scathing report on the Naval History and Heritage Command’s management. I have benefitted from research funding (the Vice Admiral Edwin B. Hooper Research Grant) that the Command provided in 2010, but that did not offset the negative impression I developed of the Command’s leadership long before then.

Several years ago, I began working on a biography of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the controversial Chief of Naval Operations during 1970-1974. Zumwalt left a substantial collection of his official CNO papers at the Operational Archives. I began my research in January 2008. Unfortunately, it started out badly because Navy contractors were beginning to re-review formerly open files under the Kyl-Lott amendment. Even though I was researching unclassified files in the Zumwalt collection, on the second day of my research, the archivists confiscated the copies that I had made that day and asked me to return other copies that I had previously made because they might contain nuclear secrets. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service wanted to make sure that they did not and asked me if I would sign a “Classified Information Non-Disclosure Agreement” but on the advice of my lawyer I refused because there was no guarantee that any notes I took or documents I copied would ever get properly declassified so I could use them for my project. The NSCIS agent then asked me to turn over my notes. I did and they were never returned to me.

The Operational Archives then cut off my access to the unclassified files altogether because they had to undergo a page-by-page review in the event they included a nuclear secret. I then learned that government security reviewers can waive Kyl-Lot review requirements for material that is “highly unlikely” to contain nuclear secrets. Plainly, there was leeway to waive excessive review but the Command’s managers would not stand up for researchers. I wonder how much this cost the taxpayers.

I tried to persuade the Archive management to conduct an expedited review of files that were unlikely to include nuclear information, such as on race relations, retention studies and racial incidents at sea, but that request was refused, also on Kyl-Lott grounds. Then I filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The Archives had initially declared the Zumwalt finding aid to be “classified” in order to dissuade me from filing my FOIA, but I pointed that that trying to discourage a researcher from filing a FOIA was a violation of DoD policy. I needed to see key files on Zumwalt’s years in the high command. At first I asked whether the Navy would do what the National Archives in College Park had done: a “review under demand” procedure where researchers could ask for expedited Kyl-Lott review of specific files. But the Command refused to allow that.

Having no other recourse in April 2009 I filed a blanket FOIA with the Navy Archives, for folder lists for 14 boxes of the Zumwalt Personal Papers used for writing his memoir ON WATCH, folder lists for Zumwalt’s CNO office 00 files (the central files of the CNO, 1970-1974), all documents and materials in approximately 300 containers of Zumwalt’s Personal papers, and all documents withheld from me on my first two days of research in the archive. As a matter of course, and within my rights as a FOIA requester, I asked for a waiver of fees on the grounds that disclosure of the information was in the public interest and likely to contribute to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.

The FOIA was referred to the Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. In July 2009, the director informed me that my request for a fee waiver had been denied. The estimated cost for conducting a FOIA review of approximately 295,000 pages would be $44,235. I was somewhat bemused to read, “Please notify my office if you agree to pay these estimated costs and we will immediately continue processing your request.”

It was clear to me that the Navy History and Heritage Command was intent on denying me access to the Zumwalt materials and had stooped to the lowest level of subterfuge by concluding that a book about the Admiral was not in the public interest. This meant that I had to file an appeal with the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG), the Navy’s office for resolving legal issues involving military operations, organization, and personnel. In my appeal letter, I documented a pattern of procedural deceit and non-compliance intended to thwart my research, focusing on the denial of folder lists and finding aides. I closed with the following plea: “I beseech the JAG appeal officers to recognize the broad public interest that will result in disclosure of the requested information.”

On October 9, 2009, a letter arrived from Captain M.G. Laverdiere, JAGC, U.S. Navy, Deputy Assistant Judge Advocate general (General Litigation) which included this language: “I grant your appeal.” The Navy’s lawyers had overruled the History and Heritage Command by finding that the “disclosure of the information was clearly in the public interest and likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of government.” The Command was informed that I had met the criteria for a waiver of fees and they were instructed to process my FOIA immediately.

The JAG’s ruling had ripple effects throughout the chain of command. The FOIA coordinator and archivist in NHHC’s Histories and Archives Division began copying whatever responsive records were available and expedited the review of CNO materials, meaning those unclassified and not exempt from release would be made available to me. I received folder lists and made several research trips to the archive. Certain materials still needed to undergo the Kyl-Lott review. I was given no date for when that would begin Using the limited amount of material that the Archives made available, along with access to the Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech where Zumwalt had given his personal papers, I was able to draw my portrait of Admiral Zumwalt’s remarkable journey through life. I envy the next generation of historians who should have greater access to the records that rightfully belong to the public.

There is one final sad exchange in my story for access to the materials and which explains why the IG report came as no surprise. In November 2011, Captain Jeffrey L. Gaffney, Deputy Director of the Naval History & Heritage Command, informed me that that I would no longer have access to materials:”we cannot maintain the collection in the environmental conditions that it requires to prevent mold and other deterioration. This was pointed out to us very clearly by a recent Inspector General’s visit which cataloged our problems and brought them to the attention of the highest Navy leadership…The bad inspection results, our duty of stewardship of the collection, and a plus-up [increase] in our budget … together pushed us to make hard decisions about the preservation of the collection. It needed to be moved to proper storage and it had to be done immediately, so we struck while the fire was hot and Navy leadership was ready to support us. Unfortunately, preparing this huge collection (4.7 miles of shelving) for movement necessitates inventory and other preparation which takes up the time of our archivists. In order to preserve the collection for future naval historians, we have to curtail the availability temporarily. The collection will be moved next year to a temporary facility where we will still be able to access it, although not with the ease we are used to.”

In light of my experience it is essential that the Navy provides new leadership to the History and Heritage Command. The new leadership needs to be more sensitive to the needs of researchers and to find ways to establish the right balance between openness and security requirements. It is imperative, however, that the Navy finds a better home for its priceless Archives. Wherever that is, I hope that researchers are treated better than I was.

Larry Berman, Founding Dean of the Honors College, Georgia State University and Professor Emeritus, UC Davis. In October 2012 Harper will publish ZUMWALT: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt. Jr.

COMMENTS ON NAVY HISTORY

John Prados

The Navy History and Heritage Command is challenged today but that is not very different from what its situation has been for many years. What is perplexing is that the problems have accumulated over a lengthy period and the margin now is thinner than it has ever been. Perhaps high-level concern, suggested by the fact that the Navy’s Inspector General was ordered to carry out this inspection, is an indication of better things to come, but only action will make the difference. The jury remains out on that, and in a climate of expected Pentagon budget reductions it will become increasingly difficult to make the investments required to rectify the growing problems.

Due to its nature the Inspector General (IG) report hardly begins to convey the extent of the problems facing the U.S. Navy’s history program. The IG is concerned with the command’s compliance with various department regulations and directives, with personnel and quality of life issues, and with important Navy initiatives. Only a small fraction of the IG report comments on that which is of primary concern to the American public, which is access to the Navy’s story.

The report describes alarming defects in Navy History facilities which threaten the artifacts and records that need safeguarding, and a huge backlog in terms of records preservation for its precious holdings. For artifacts and art the Navy estimates that backlog at 30 years, and for records at 68 years.

These are stunning figures. But the IG report fails to convey the flavor or extent of the problems that follow from years of underinvestment combined with a growing mountain of directives that demanded immediate response. Larry Berman’s story of his efforts to obtain simple access to Admiral Elmo Zumwalt’s papers is more illuminating. The flap of the moment always supersedes the long-term programs, with the shortfalls magnified by resource constraints. After 9/11 there was a drive to extract from the files and re-classify records that might somehow be deemed useful to terrorists—down to reports of tanker sinkings by U-Boats in the North Atlantic in World War II. Who knows how many man-years were added to the records backlog by that absurd diversion? And flaps can be of the most prosaic kind. One of my less-preferred recollections is of the time my telephone conversation with a colleague at the then-Naval Historical Center was interrupted by an all-hands-on-deck call for everyone there to go save the books and artifacts in the center’s library, where water was streaming in from leaks in the roof —a direct result of lack of upkeep attributable to scarce resources.

Navy History has cut back personnel steadily. The photo archive used to have several experts on staff. Now there is only one. The facility now operates only part of the day, on some days of the week. When, a few months ago, I sought to consult the photo archive to help illustrate a project I have been working on, I could not even get my emails and phone calls returned. Overburdened staff means that service to the American public becomes increasingly problematical.

Unfortunately, the Navy has tried to meet the challenge by further restricting its goals. It has already stopped producing official history books, substituting less comprehensive products such as pamphlets. Its official history of the Vietnam War was never completed past 1965. The newer series of “Navy in Asia” pamphlets helps fill the gap–and many of them are quite good–but none have the weight or authority of an official history volume. The IG report itself notes that many Navy field commands have failed to continue feeding Navy History periodic operational history reports as they are supposed to do. At some point the stream of raw data required to fuel good history may dry to a trickle.

The History and Heritage Command has also tried to reduce the burden by eliminating records. A few months ago I had occasion to look up data on certain U.S. aircraft carriers and their activities in the mid-1950s, only to discover that records from a period following the Korean War through the early 1960s no longer exist. I shudder to think that notes I made thirty years ago may be the only surviving documentation for these activities—and that the records can no longer be accessed. William Burr refers to missing records in his introduction. Records preservation issues only further complicate the overall situation—and that assumes that records are, in fact, extant. From the standpoint of the American public, and that of historians seeking to document the Navy’s history, the situation is dire in the extreme.

The Navy probably thought, when it merged its museum operations with the Naval Historical Center at the end of 2008, that it was broadening the resource stream for the service’s efforts to preserve its history. But that could not happen because the Navy leadership made the Command responsible for the upkeep of ten museums plus maintenance of the historic ship U.S.S. Constitution, the biggest artifact of all, located in Boston harbor. Add to that the “heritage” function of public outreach—the organization is currently commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 as well as other events—and this becomes a great deal to accomplish on a 2012 budget of $38 million. That figure, it might be added, is almost a fifty percent increase over Navy History’s previous funding level. The building repairs and improvements which the IG report finds are necessary by themselves may cost more than the unit’s entire budget. In short the “crisis” at Navy History is a real one.

John Prados is a Senior Fellow at the National Security Archive where he directs the Vietnam and Intelligence Documentation Projects and co-directs its Iraq Documentation Project.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Wilcox permalink
    April 13, 2012 1:11 pm

    Your posting asserts that the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General Office has “declassified” a report on its inspection of the History and Heritage Command. Did you post the wrong document? The IG report that accompanies your posting is marked FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (FOUO). FOUO is an exemption to mandatory disclosure under the FOIA, not a classification, therefore the report could not have been “declassified.” Given the amount of documents you deal with at the National Security Archive, I assume you are aware of the difference between FOUO and classified information.

    • Nate Jones permalink*
      April 16, 2012 2:16 pm

      It was released by a FOIA request, not declassified. You’re right. Thanks.

  2. Haywood Jablowme permalink
    April 13, 2012 1:32 pm

    Any thought to criticizing those who “broke” Navy History (former directors such as Allard, Dudley, former archivists such as Cavalcante (RIP), etc…) rather than pointing the finger at those who are trying to fix the problem (DeLoach, CNO, etc…)? How do you think a 30 and 65 year backlogs came to be? Rather than fire off missives such as this, you might actually want to stop by and see the extent of the problems yourself and see how hard their staff is working to fix the issues. Unfortunately, some historians see have been content to sit back and watch it go down the tubes knowing full well what conditions the buildings and archives are in and saying NOTHING. Including, apparently, the people authoring this blog.

  3. Haywood Jablowme permalink
    April 14, 2012 8:06 am

    Ahhh…so you realized that IG reports aren’t “recently declassified” and changed the article, but won’t post my first comment. Why? Scared to point the finger at the real culprits? The folks who REALLY broke Navy History? Like serial adulter on the government dime Dudley (God, to be so stupid as to leave the love letters from your whores and your TYPED, yes TYPED “dear Johns” back to them, in your desk when you leave…)? Maybe worktime historic pornographers like Gordon Bowen-Hassel with thousands of filthy movies ordered and downloaded onto his computer? You really liked the old days, huh? Talking with folks who still work at NHHC, the mismanagement and outright criminal behavior at the old History Center are LEGENDARY. And sadly, TRUE. Change leadership? WHY? To bring in the good ol boy network that will provide private researchers like Berman all they want while tolerating sexual predation, harassment, pornography, embezzlement and god knows what else? A leadership change will only derail the progress that’s being made, progress that’s sadly, not in your myopic eyesight.

    Hey, here’s a thought, braniacs: Why don’t you actually give NHHC a call and see how they’re fixing things and what products they’ve been pumping out lately. Go and see for yourself. The IG report is actually helping the staff there fix what Admiral Roughead knew about four years ago. Histories of Sixth and Seventh Fleets. Histories of Electronic Warfare in the Navy. A history of unmanned drones in the 60′s. A compendium of all things irregular warfare. They’ve hardly “stopped producing”. Maybe Berman is pissed because the staff is actually doing work for the NAVY for once. Maybe Berman is pissed because his pet project got temporarily put on hold while folks like Gaffney tried to stop 30 years worth of mold growth and otherwise decaying records. Even reading Berman’s quote of Gaffney’s letter, no where does it say that his access was turned off. Gaffney simply said it would be limited while they tried to fix things. You guys are unreal. Bitch about the poor conditions at the place, bitch at the people who are trying to fix the place and bitch because it may impact your lives for while while not actually taking to task the people responsible for breaking it. Is that all you do- cast stones?

  4. Nate Jones permalink*
    April 16, 2012 2:23 pm

    The following comment was emailed by Mel Leffler:

    I want to thank the National Security Archive for publicizing this report by the Navy’s Inspector General. Years ago when I was working on the origins of the Cold War I spent weeks at the Naval Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard. The materials there were extraordinarily valuable. I realized at the time that historians laboring on understanding the evolution of the Cold War in its military, strategic, and geopolitical dimensions would find these archival materials increasingly indispensable as they would be declassified. And, of course, historians interested in the organization of the navy, military weaponry, fleet operations and deployments, research and development, and inter-service rivalries would need to use the documents housed there in order to illuminate their topics.

    Leaders of the military services always have been deeply interested in the history of their organization and in lessons learned from the past.

    It is a terrible shame, indeed a disgrace, to learn that such valuable archival records and artifacts are in such desperate shape.

    I do hope that those responsible will take appropriate action.

    Mel Leffler
    Edward Stettinius Professor of American History
    University of Virginia

  5. April 16, 2012 3:07 pm

    Something else the Navy does not do particularly well is proactive public relations. The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) is somewhat guilty of that problem as well. A significant portion of the issues addressed in this post about the command fall under the command’s Histories and Archives Division or HAD as we call it. HAD is one of four divisions within the command. I am the assistant director that is in charge of the division. HAD as a descriptive name is somewhat misleading. The division consists of five branches: histories, archives, the Navy Department Library, publications support, and the web program (website and social media). 41 knowledge workers work in HAD broken down as follows: myself, a deputy, 13 historians, 14 archivists, 7 librarians, 3 pub support staff, and two web program staff. We manage to respond to about 8,000 reference and research queries annually, operate a 200 million page archive, run a 140,000 title reference library which holds another 343,000 archival manuscripts, publish 2 to 5 monographs and document histories annually in print form, along with a larger number of shorter works for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and other customers, and electronically publish another 4,000 to 5,000 pages of material to our website, some original research, some digitized primary and secondary sources from our library and archives.

    Much of the published results of the IG inspection were no surprise. Since I joined the command in June of 2010, we had been actively engaging with senior Navy leadership, starting with the then Vice Chief of Naval Operations, through briefs and tours of our facilities. Just as you have stated in this post, we also expressed our deep concern over inadequate facilities, deepening backlogs due to chronic understaffing, increasing demand for our services, poor records management compliance in the fleet, lack of historians and archivists at major commands, etc.

    HAD was successful in articulating the risk to the archives as institutional risk to the Navy and received $2 million dollars in August of 2010 to establish a pilot program to address our records at greatest risk: a collection of 12,000 reels of microfilm covering the Cold War from the 1950s to the 1970s. Unfortunately, the IG report did not report that effort. The pilot was ongoing at the time of the inspection. The IG report did not mention that our command built and delivered the case for Navy history to a Chief of Naval Operations Executive Board (CEB) chaired by the Vice Chief Operations. That successful brief resulted in an increase of about $12 million dollars this fiscal year to our base budget and the addition of 57 new staff starting in 2013. Of the $12 million, HAD received $8 million to start attacking the archives backlog along with strategic digitization of archival records. Of the 57 new staff coming to the command, HAD is slated to receive 31 people, including 11 historians to go to fleet and major commands, 10 archivists, 3 reference librarians, 4 writer-editors, and 3 more web content developers. We have a long way to go, with many, many challenges, but we are starting to get recognition that we provide critical value to the Navy and need support to do our job properly.

    If I may, I wanted to address several points made by the commenters to this post directly.

    William Burr:

    The Navy’s history program was tardy in complying with the Kyl-Lott Amendments requirements for re-review for Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data.

    The Department of the Navy Declassification Program is responsible for conducting Kyl-Lott review of the material in the archives. Specifically, the Automatic Declassification Branch of DON Declass uses contractors to schedule and conduct both initial declassification and Kyl-Lott review of material in our collections. NHHC has no control over this process.

    If the Command was really an advocate for history, it could have gone to the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy to show that through 2006 adequate security declassification review had already been done of thousands of pages of post-World War II records and that nuclear weapons information had been accounted for.

    Possibly, but that was a decision by Dr. Dudley to not push more strongly. On the other hand, the DON Declass program which works for the CNO made a fairly restrictive interpretation of Kyl-Lott. My staff believes that DON Declass may very well be overstating the restrictions on some records and we are working internally to address the issue and remove the Kyl-Lott restrictions, especially to naval aviation records prior to and including 1944.

    More recently, other news about the Navy’s history program has been disturbing, for example, that invaluable tapes of oral history interviews conducted during the war in Iraq are missing.

    Our oral histories comprise a significant component of our backlog. That may be someone’s interpretation of missing. If I could get specifics, I will ask my staff to confirm this assertion.

    Apparently, apprehension about the environment for historical records has led to plans to close the Archives and put the records in storage, which would be bad news for researchers in and out of government.

    There never was any intent to “Close the Archives.” All of the aviation and ships history records (about 10,000 cubic feet of paper and thousands of fiche records) are in a separate building with archival storage conditions. They remain open to researchers.

    What we were directed to do last October was that we were to move at-risk records in three very old buildings (20,000 reels of microfilm, 6.5 TB of electronic data, and about 14,000 cubic feet of paper records) offsite by December 31st, 2011. Our concern, stated up front, was that any interim storage solution must allow servicing the collection. There has been no pressure to move the archives to some inaccessible location.

    To date we have been able to move all the digital data to our “safe” archival facility, along with about 1,000 cubic feet of paper. We are planning to move another 1,000 cubic feet in May. We have 640 reels of MF in cold storage, and will have another 2,000 reels in cold storage next month. Another 11,000 will be duplicated to silver halide over the next 9 months.

    Where things stand at this instant is that we are investigating two courses of action. The first is to continue with a contract action to move the remaining at-risk records to interim storage with proper environmental control, and that will allow active servicing of the collection. Service may be slower, but we will still be able to support researchers. The second course of action we are investigating is rehabilitating the HAVC equipment, ducting, insulation, etc. in the two building that house the paper collections and not have to move any collections at all. We hope to have the requisite info within the next 30 days to make a decision which way to go.

    For example, the plan calls for fixing what has been broken by new storage arrangements for archival records and artifacts, but it does not establish a priority for making them available to researchers in and outside of the Navy.

    You are correct. This was not explicit. The strategic plan was the first completed plan for the command. The 2011 Strategic Plan will be going under review again this year and that oversight will be corrected.

    What the Navy’s leaders need to consider is whether the Command would best be managed by individuals who will be advocates for naval history and who care about history, as demonstrated by a career interest in, and commitment to, naval history.

    How do you measure interest and commitment to naval history? I served 11 years active duty and 2 years active reserves as a pilot in the Navy. I went back late in my professional career in 2004 to obtain a masters in history because of my love for military history and a desire to enter the field professionally. I spent almost 2 years prior to joining the command engaging in a discussion with members of the command and at the Naval War College over the importance of historical knowledge to the Navy. One commentator at the War College stated that I was the first person, in his 40 years of arguing for the importance of history to the US Navy, to have taken the discussion to a higher, more sophisticated level.

    But I also bring other skills that compliment my interest and commitment to history. I have an MBA and a strong background in managing technology businesses and technology intensive processes. I completed my MA in history while turning around a software company that I purchased along with other investors. The NHHC archives are facing a massive digitization requirement. Our web site is the command’s primary delivery mechanism for historical knowledge across a very broad range of customers. Interest and commitment to history is only part of what is needed to fix Navy history. The way that I have been successful in articulating the value of historical knowledge to Navy leaders and financial staff is through the language of business and knowledge management.

    Another personal measure of commitment: My wife left a tenure position at a university in California and we moved three thousand miles from the West Coast to Washington D.C. so I could pursue my dream job at NHHC.

    Berman:
    I received folder lists and made several research trips to the archive. Certain materials still needed to undergo the Kyl-Lott review. I was given no date for when that would begin Using the limited amount of material that the Archives made available, along with access to the Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech where Zumwalt had given his personal papers, I was able to draw my portrait of Admiral Zumwalt’s remarkable journey through life.

    I think that Dr. Berman’s experiences up until 2010 were very unfortunate, and could have been handled better.

    What Dr. Berman does not mention is that the two staff members at the command that helped him, and continue to help him, with his research. They have processed more than 100,000 pages of material that was in a collection that was in the backlog. Dr. Berman’s FOIA request amounted to processing a 250,000-page collection. That is about 1.5 man- years of effort. With only 14 staff working the enterprise, two moves of 40% of the collection, and the other 200 annual FOIA requests, accessioning and de-accessioning, we could not afford to have one person solely dedicated to Dr. Berman’s request.

    What he also does not acknowledge is that last October just as he was requesting additional data, my staff were dealing not only with direct order by Navy leadership to move something close to 3 miles of classified paper, we also received a simultaneous order to process another 60,000 pages of unprocessed material for a retired 3-star admiral working on a project for the Navy, in a week.

    John Prados: Perhaps high-level concern, suggested by the fact that the Navy’s Inspector General was ordered to carry out this inspection, is an indication of better things to come, but only action will make the difference. The jury remains out on that, and in a climate of expected Pentagon budget reductions it will become increasingly difficult to make the investments required to rectify the growing problems.

    Hopefully my earlier response provides information that action to address the problems at the command started well over a year prior to the IG inspection. It was unfortunate that the IG team did not include any of the prior year’s activities in their report. But then, no one from the IG team spoke with either me or the assistant director for museums and collections. Nor did they request our CVs to clarify our backgrounds and professional qualifications. Nor did they ask us about what plans we had underway to address the issues in their report.

    Much has been happening with the archives in the last six months. In December, after a herculean effort involving much overtime and help from across the command, the archives staff completed the first inventory, at the collection level, of all of the paper and microfilm collections at the command, which now resides in an Access database. This is the first step in gaining true intellectual control over the collection as well as a huge step in addressing the backlog. In addition, we have been able to mitigate risk to about 53% of the at-risk records and plan to have that number up to 64% in May. Once the film duplication is complete, we hope to transfer about 12,000 reels of microfilm of message traffic to and from Pacific Command during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to the national archives later this year or early in 2013.

    The other branches in HAD have been active as well. We have three books in various stages of publication. A 7th fleet history will appear in print from GPO at the end of the month. The 12th volume of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution will be out later this summer, and we hope to have a book on combined operations published this fall. Three other monographs are in work and should be in the queue for publication in 2013. The addition of publications support staff will help speed this effort up dramatically. We will also start work on a new website for the command this summer. Our current site is a legacy website consisting of over 140,000 individual web pages. The new site will allow us to use advanced content development tools, rapidly update information through a database, and begin to integrate searches into our archives, library, artifact, art, and photo collections. We are gearing up to start hiring our first fleet/major command historians in the fall to pilot setting up histories offices in all the numbered fleets and two or three select major command/N-code offices.

    Navy History has cut back personnel steadily. The photo archive used to have several experts on staff. Now there is only one. The facility now operates only part of the day, on some days of the week. When, a few months ago, I sought to consult the photo archive to help illustrate a project I have been working on, I could not even get my emails and phone calls returned. Overburdened staff means that service to the American public becomes increasingly problematical.

    Not sure where you are getting this info but it is incorrect. There have been some internal re-alignments, mostly to staff echelon II functions that are needed to run finance, contracts, HR, CIO, and security.

    The Photo Section had three staff up until 2010. Two retired. Hiring to fill those positions was put on hold pending a decision whether to keep the photo section in the Museums and Collections Division or merge photo into the archives with HAD. The Director decided to merge the photo section into the archives, however the timing came when my archives staff was overwhelmed. We are now moving forward with hiring a photo-section lead. The merger will happen over the next several months. We will hire the third photo section archivist/curator in the next fiscal year. In the meantime, I am moving forward with conducting a preservation survey of the collection, which has never been done, and a first ever-digital inventory of the photo collection, again to establish better intellectual control over the collection and to improve collection management and development.

    The History and Heritage Command has also tried to reduce the burden by eliminating records. A few months ago I had occasion to look up data on certain U.S. aircraft carriers and their activities in the mid-1950s, only to discover that records from a period following the Korean War through the early 1960s no longer exist. I shudder to think that notes I made thirty years ago may be the only surviving documentation for these activities—and that the records can no longer be accessed.

    I think there may be a misunderstanding. Certainly any instance of vital historical records being eliminated is anathema. But I think there may also some confusion about our archives’ role and records disposition. We are an integral part of the Navy’s records management system. NHHC’s archives is the largest repository of permanent historical records outside of NARA for Navy records. 90% of the records held by NHHC are permanent historical records. Those records are specified in the Secretary of the Navy’s Records Management Manual to come to the command within a specified time period, and reside at the command for anywhere from 20 years (deck logs) to 50 years (command operational reports). At the end of the designated period, records are then transferred to the National Archives. We just shipped a few hundred cubic feet of deck logs to NARA this week. About 10% of the records we hold are either other historically valuable records we decide to hold or in some cases we hold duplicates to facilitate our mission. Is it possible that the records you refer to were simply records that were shipped to NARA? I would be interested myself in understanding what happened if you can provide me some background info on your request and who you spoke with at the archives.

    I hope this information helps provide some clarity regarding your questions and concerns. We take our mission very seriously. I am personally deeply committed to the practice of naval history, preserving the valuable records that we hold, and serving the many customers that request our assistance.

    Of course everything I have submitted in this post is my personal opinion and represents facts as best known to me. My statements are mine alone and do not confer official sanction or policy for the Navy. I also apologize for grammatical errors as I was working this late Friday night/early Saturday morning after the post hit the blog. You can reach me for at gregory.j.martin4@navy.mil.if you have further questions.

  6. Bill Burr permalink
    April 17, 2012 2:52 pm

    I appreciate Greg Martin’s sincere response to the comments on the IG report and the History Command. The response includes good news, such as the plan to hire historians for the Navy’s far-flung commands and the command’s successful efforts to secure additional funding for the History and Archives Division. Time will tell whether the Navy’s leadership sees the NHHC doing enough to meet the serious challenges posed by the IG report
    I was interested to read Mr. Martin’s comment on the Navy’s implementation of the Kyl-Lott program. It is heartening to read that the NHHC has finally concluded that the Navy contractors and declassification authorities were “overstating” the case for restrictions of records during the review process. Mr. Martin focuses on the problem of naval aviation records, but I wonder about the status of the CNO “00” files and other records in the Operational Archives, significant portions of which are closed for Kyl-Lott review (even though Navy reservists had thoroughly reviewed the“00” files for sensitive equities earlier in the last decade). It needs to be remembered that the Kyl-Lott amendments went into effect in 1999, 13 years ago. Historians and researchers can only hope that the Navy can solve the problem by 1) narrowing the field of records that really merit Kyl-Lott review and 2) adopting the system that the National Archives developed: provide for quick review of specially requested and other high-demand records.
    I remain concerned that so much Navy history is classified and closed to research. Jeffrey Barlow won the Franklion and Theodore Roosevelt Naval History prize for his book, From Hot War to Cold : the U.S. Navy and National Security Affairs, 1945-1955 (Stanford University Press, 2009), much of which is based on the Navy archives. Yet, from what I understand, from a number of those familiar with the situation, two-thirds of his sources are from Navy records that were open when he used them but are now closed because of the Kyl-Lott review. This makes me wonder what the plans of the NHHC and the Navy are to expedite the review so that researchers can once more study the history of the Cold War navy.
    I understand that Mr. Martin and his colleagues don’t want to close the Archives. But during recent visits archival staff clearly informed me that historical files at the Operational Archive will be closed at some point in the future and that I should time any future visits accordingly. That the NHCC has plans to move the records to a “safe” and accessible facility is excellent. Nevertheless, I suspect there will be some period when those records are closed during a transitional period until the archival staff has made them ready for researcher use.
    I will be the last person to question Mr. Martin’s personal “interest and commitment to naval history.” It is great that he pursued a M.A. in history while trying to make a living in an unrelated field and there is no doubt that he has brought an excellent skill set to the NHHC. All the same, the NHCC needs a staff of history professionals with advanced degrees at headquarters who can prepare longer-range and broader-gauged studies for the Navy leadership and the general public. During the Cold War the U.S. Air Force prepared histories http://www.afhso.af.mil/booksandpublications/specialstudies-bluebooks.asp on a wide range of topics, from the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis to the history of electronic warfare in Vietnam. Yet there are no official histories of the US Navy during the Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s, much less electronic warfare. Given the Navy’s integral role in the Strait crises and the current role of electronic warfare in naval operations, I would think that its leaders would value historical perspective on these and other topics.
    Mr. Martin’s response makes me wonder what the NHHC’s vision is for telling the history of the Navy. What history, besides the war of 1812, does the NHHC believe the Navy and the public need to know? Does the Command have a comprehensive plan for educating and informing the public and the service leadership about the history of the .U.S. Navy. To answer these questions, the NHHC leadership should be encouraging its historians to consider them and also convene the blue ribbon panel recommended by the IG. This would help end the marginalized status of historians at the NHHC (a problem cited by the IG). Good answers to these questions, and good procedures for finding answers, will show whether the Command is really interested in finding a useful role for history.

    Bill Burr, National Security Archive

  7. April 17, 2012 2:57 pm

    A Grunt’s View. I have been employed as a historian at the Naval Historical Center/Naval History and Heritage Command since 1991. I’ve spent most of my time here researching and writing analytical, thesis-driven historical monographs firmly grounded in primary source materials–the academic gold standard, the kind of work that gaining tenure at university history departments depends upon. These include Shield and Sword: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War, Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy’s First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality, and Blue & Gold and Black: Racial Integration of the U.S. Naval Academy. Shield and Sword received a dust jacket endorsement from General Colin Powell and the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize from the New York Branch of the Navy League of the United States. Breaking the Color Barrier received a dust jacket endorsement from former President Jimmy Carter and prizes from the Society for History in the Federal Government and the Organization of American Historians. Blue & Gold and Black received a dust jacket endorsement from Admiral Mike Mullen when he was CNO. The latter two might be invisible to the American public as official histories because academic presses published them. Until several years ago, our Command had no budget for publishing monographs, so the OPNAV lawyers blessed a method devised by the former head of the old Contemporary History Branch to enable them to be published by outside academic and specialty presses. My colleages have produced and continue to produce such gold standard works. Henceforth they will be published by the Government Printing Office because we now have a budget for publishing gold-standard monographs.

    The Command’s principal problem, as I see it, is the lack of funding in the years before the current Director took charge. This lack of funding, in turn, stemmed from the failure of previous Directors to convince the Navy’s leadership that history is a significant and valuable tool for policy makers, operators, and force providers in decsionmaking, along with all the other benefits history brings to the table. I don’t need to explain such benefits to fellow historians.

    The result of the past lack of funding has been outlined well enough in the comments above. At the grunt level, a result that hasn’t been mentioned is that our most experienced and knowledgable historians–those who write the gold-standard monographs–have been pulled in many different directions by a multitude of demands for our subject matter expertise. Thus, the pace of output of these works has slowed.

    However, as an honest, opinionated, bigmouth, I can assure you that our leadership remains committed to producing gold-standard monographs, that plans to produce such books exist and are being executed, and that the grunt level old timers like me, my colleagues, and our branch heads remain committed to producing work of excellence. It might take longer than it used to because of the various demands we grunts happily meet to serve our Navy, but you won’t see any wine before its time, to paraphrase an old television commercial.

    Like my division director, I have to add that these are my personal views, not those of my bosses or of the Navy.

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