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Chairman Moakley, I am pleased to testify before you
and the Subcommittee today on House Resolution 419. With me is Michael Mc Reynolds, Director of the Legislative Archives Division at the National Archives. Passage of the resolution will be a significant step in making the records of the House of Representatives more readily available to the citizens of this country. We appreciate the work of your Subcommittee on this question and applaud the recently published Subcommittee Print on the access policies of state and other national legislatures. The study indicates the unique relationship of the United States Congress and the National Archives, in that the records of the House and the Senate are not kept by the legislative bodies themselves, as is the case in almost all other countries. Here the records of Congress have been successfully entrusted with the
National Archives for many years, as our recent project with
the House Iran-Contra Committee records amply illustrates.
As you may know, I became Archivist of the United States in December of last year, but before that I was the Director of the Gerald. R. Ford Presidential Library in Michigan. Many of the papers at that Library, of course, originated in the House of Representatives during President Ford's long and meritorious career here. The personal papers of Congressman Ford, along with the records from the White House, were given to the National Archives with a deed of gift from President Ford. The deed included a liberal access policy for researchers wanting to know about
President Ford's career, and most his congressional papers
are now available, 15 years after he left the House.
So I come to this hearing with some experience with access policies related to the records of the House and an understanding of the issues raised in revising those policies. The National Archives participated in your hearing in 1986 on the same matter and presented a longer discussion on the archival considerations related to public access to the House records. In reviewing the record of that hearing, we want to emphasize that the proposed access revision would continue to protect individual privacy, national security information, and executive session records
for 50 years. The proposed resolution will in fact
establish a 30-50 year rule.
Many House records will be open after 30 years, but the National Archives staff will screen the records for those three categories and withhold the restricted records, as we now do for the Senate records with its 20-50 year rule.
Since 1980, we have screened, withheld some records, and made available to researchers Other Senate records of a very sensitive nature and have no complaints from the Senate. Those records include topics such as internal security, atomic energy, and criminal investigations. We received
some complaints from researchers, but when the access policy was fully explained, they understood.
We were asked to comment on the question of the merits of a 20-50 year rule or a 30-50 year rule. Undoubtedly it
would be administratively easier to have a uniform access
rule for both the House and the Senate. Researchers are puzzled by the present difference and will remain so with a House 30-50 year rule. Most researchers are working on a specific topic and use both the House and the Senate records in their research. With the 30-50 year rule, a student working on the relationship between Congress and President Kennedy will be able to see relevant records from the Senate, but not from the House.
The question of a 20 year standard affecting present House members is lost to the American public, because the administrative and committee records of the House at the National Archives contain almost no political or personal documentation. The records are bill files, petitions from citizens, reports from executive agencies, and transcripts of hearings and other records related to the official work of the House. As Congressman Glenn English stated in his letter to you dated January 25, 1988, "In general, any need for confidentiality will have long since disappeared by the twenty year mark." Our advise on this question is that we can easily work with a 30-50 year rule, but we see the administrative and training costs for our staff would be reduced if the resolution would establish a 28-50 year rule, and the American research public would enjoy a consistent access policy to the records of Congress.
For the past year National Archives staff members have been meeting with House committee staff directors and
records officers to acquaint them with the programs of the National Archives and answer any questions they might have about their records located in the Legislative Archives Division of the Archives. The meetings were successful in establishing a working dialogue on many records matters. In each of the sessions we asked if they had objections to the revision of the 50 year rule. Almost unanimously they did not, but almost always they did request some type of records management assistance. The National Archives does provide such assistance for executive agencies, and we would pleased to work with the Clerk's Office in providing records management programs designed specifically to the needs of the House. We are talking with the staff of the House Administration Committee about revising the Committee Records Guidelines handbook and can turn our attention to it, once the Bicentennial Guide to the Records of the House of Representatives at the National Archives is ready for
Our work in the last 3 years with the Clerk's Office, the House Office for the Bicentennial, and your Subcommittee
marks a new era in cooperation and coordination between the
House of Representatives and the National Archives. We endorse your continued efforts to make the vast store of House documents more readily available to the people of this
STATEMENT OF R. MICHAEL MCREYNOLDS
DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE ARCHIVES DIVISION,
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION.
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON RULES OF THE HOUSE, COMMITTEE ON RULES, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SEPTEMBER 17, 1986, ON ACCESS TO THE RECORDS OF THE.. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.