CHICAGO, February 11, 2005—The Society of American Archivists (SAA) today congratulated Dr. Allen Weinstein on his confirmation as Archivist of the United States, a position that places him at the head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). “During informal conversations, Dr. Weinstein has expressed his commitment to the independence of NARA and pledged collaboration with professional archival organizations,” SAA President Randall C. Jimerson said today. “We look forward to working closely with him as he assumes this vital leadership position.”
At the same time, SAA reiterated its concern that the process of nominating a new Archivist of the United States “was undertaken outside both the letter and the spirit of the law” and compromises the political independence of NARA. Weinstein was originally nominated on April 8, 2004, to succeed John Carlin as NARA head.
“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,” SAA stated in July 22, 2004, written testimony to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which conducted hearings on Weinstein’s nomination. The President has power to remove the Archivist, but if he takes this action, the law calls for him to provide Congress with an explanation of his reasons. “Despite repeated requests, we still have not received an explanation of why this nomination had to move so quickly that interested professional associations could not be consulted,” Jimerson said. “The nomination should have been postponed to allow the process prescribed by law to be followed. At a minimum we hope that the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will begin working with interested professional associations to establish a more formal—and more accountable—procedure that can be used for future nominations.”
Given the absence of due process, SAA chose neither to support nor to oppose Weinstein’s appointment. “However,” Jimerson said, “I have personally assured Dr. Weinstein that SAA will offer our assistance and cooperation. As Archivist of the United States, he has a pivotal role in the preservation of the nation’s archives, including records held at NARA and in the states. He takes office at a time of crisis as the President’s budget includes significant cuts in the NARA budget that pose a major threat to the preservation of the nation’s historical memory.”
The Society of American Archivists is a national professional organization representing more than 4,000 individual and institutional members. Its mission is to serve the education and information needs of its members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of the nation’s historical record.
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Society of American Archivists