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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 20-50 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
publication. 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
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.
My name is Michael McReynolds, and today I am representing the National Archives and Records Administration. I am the Director of the Legislative Archives Division at the National Archives. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide information to the Subcommittee on Rules of the House of the United States House of Representatives on the records of the House. We are also pleased that this opportunity comes as a result of our somewhat newly independent status within the Federal Government.
Ever since the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the administrative and committee records of the House of Representatives have been received, preserved, and made available to the American public at the National Archives. The first accession of records totalled almost lo, 000 cubic feet of records and included the earliest documents of the House when it first met in 1789. Now records are regularly transferred after the time lapse of 2 Congresses; we now have more than 23,000 cubic feet of House records in the Legislative Archives Division.
As you know the records are, and will remain, in the legal custody of the House. The United States is unique in the western world in that the national archives of this country not only has the records of the executive branch of Government, but also the records of both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. Some people have chided us that this
arrangement conflicts with the separation of powers, but the