In a March 11, 2014, press release, the National Archives and Records Administration announced that the National Archives facility in Anchorage, Alaska, will close in 2014; that two facilities in the Philadelphia area will be consolidated into a single site in 2014; and that within the next two years, two facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, will be consolidated into a single site. According to that press release, “These closures and consolidations will result in estimated annual cost savings of approximately $1.3 million.”
The Society of American Archivists recognizes the pain that will result from the proposed closure and consolidations, but believes that these actions are the inevitable result of the repeated budget reductions imposed on archives agencies within federal, state, and local governments. The White House budget request for NARA in FY 15 is $10 million less than in the previous year. From FY 11 to FY 13, the agency’s overall budget was reduced from $416 million to $371 million. No government agency can absorb such significant decreases without an impact on services provided to the public.
Although SAA regrets the proposed closure and consolidations – and objects in principle to the closing of any archival facility that provides valuable service to the community – it realizes that NARA must absorb budget cuts and believes that consolidating proximate facilities while ensuring continuing services is less painful than other options might be. We believe that public concern should be focused not on NARA’s immediate decisions, but on the fact that Congress and the White House have shown little regard for the impact of budget reductions on citizens’ access to the public records housed in NARA facilities.
SAA calls on those who are dismayed by the proposed closure and consolidations to contact their Congressional representatives and the Administration to express their concerns, to emphasize that archives are essential to our democracy, and to demand improved funding for NARA so that the agency may serve the public in the broad and comprehensive manner required by our democratic government. We hope that the Archivist of the United States commits fully to his stated promise to digitize all materials in a way that ensures the records’ accessibility and readability.