Richard E. Barry,

Principal, Barry Associates

Cofounder, Open Reader Consortium

  Email: rickbarry [at] aol [dot] com


Testimony to The House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary and District of Columbia (T-THUD)

May 25, 2006

The Honorable Frank R. Wolf
Cannon House Office Building    by Fax: 202-225-0437


Dear Congressman Wolf:


I ask that you consider this correspondence urging restoration of the National Historical Publications and Research Commission (NHPRC) budget and to please pass my testimony on to other members of the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. My name is Richard Barry. I am an Arlington-Va-based author and consultant in information and records management. I have served a wide array of clients at the federal, state and local levels of government as well as in the private and non-profit sectors in North America, Europe, Africa, Australasia, Latin America/Caribbean, including several national archivists. My professional paper and biography may be found on my Website at I thank the Committee for seriously considering the budget of NHPRC, the research-funding arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and for the opportunity to present my views.


About two years ago, I submitted an OpEd piece to a leading national newspaper about the role of records and recordkeeping in: documenting individual citizenship, protecting human rights; creating and maintaining public confidence in government; enabling government by the rule of law; and promoting democracy through public accountability of its officials. I received a call from the editorial staff indicating that they had discussed the matter but simply felt that the subject of archives was "boring". But boring is not necessarily a synonym for unimportant. Those who make great use of public records and depend on continued access to them in their jobs should also understand this and publicly acknowledge their reliance on trustworthy public records, including historians, journalists, auditors, inspectors general, lawyers, jurists and, respectfully, legislators in the US Congress and state and local governments.


Our country faces a serious conundrum: more public records are being produced than ever before due to the convenience of word processing, electronic mail, instant messaging, Websites, intranets, Web logs (blogs) and other forms of digital records and the exponentially rising volume of records they produce. At the same time, we are systematically decreasing the size and seniority of records staff in many agencies – where what is needed are more highly skilled and paid staff – while at the same time adding new responsibilities such as the review of complex information systems, responding to FOI requests, etc.  I quoted one federal agency historian in an editorial for Federal Computer Week, "Saving the future now: Commentary," <> said that the system to maintain federal records has "collapsed utterly…It will be impossible to write the history of recent diplomatic and military history as we have written about World War II. Too many records are gone, and with [them] public accountability of government and rational public administration." Among the responses I received from that editorial was one from a federal agency records manager, just as I received it except for my changes in brackets to mask the agency's and individual's identity:

“You are correct that Agency heads, legislators, journalists, auditors, lawyers, and historians do not support recordkeeping practices, sound or otherwise….[We do] not audit records…You have personnel destroying permanent documents. No discipline except for maybe a slap on the hand…Up to the early 90s recordkeeping was in pretty good shape...However, in the late 80s and early 90s is when we started getting the cuts in personnel. My office was reduced from 11 people (GS11…GS4) down to 3 people (GS9…GS4)…We are trying to handle the same programs and the same reponsibilities. We (records managers) are suppose to review all automated programs that will retain data to ensure they meet recordkeeping and Privacy Act requirements.  Do you really believe a GS13 is going to listen to a GS9 or below when it comes to automation programs.  Will a GS14 department head… listen to a GS5.  Not really. We are no longer able to go out and evaluation offices on their recordkeeping practices as we did in the 80s.  This practice ensured records were being kept and long-term records were being captured and turned in for forwarding to Federal Records Centers and to NARA.  Even the development of electronic storage systems will not curb the destruction of long-term  records…Since recordkeeping is such a low priority, actions officers do not attend this type of training.  Also, we do not have the staff to conduct such training…As an Installation Records Manager, I am only able to devote a small percentage of my time to recordkeeping.  My other duties are marked as higher priorities…Until Congress takes the bull by the horns, DOD will not change its recordkeeping practices.”  Other feedback confirms that this problem is by no means limited to DOD and is still applies.


NHPRC cannot solve agency management problems but it is pivotal in underwriting research that addresses the technological and other aspects of electronic records for all levels of government. I can speak to the value and importance of NHPRC from personal experience providing pro bono assistance peer reviewing proposals for research grants and serving as a consultant on advisory committees of some of the most important electronic records research projects that NHPRC or anyone else has funded, including: the University of Pittsburgh Functional Requirements for Evidence in Recordkeeping, the Indiana University Electronic Records Projects. The latter made great strides in tackling how trustworthy records can be captured from modern financial and human resources systems, often called enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and how the records can assist the audit function. The project has directly led to the inter-university Kuali Project that has been embraced by Michigan State University and others. The NHPRC-funded South Carolina State Department of Archives and History project for training State CIOs and other information management and recordkeeping professionals provided a model for bringing the CIO and records communities to a better understanding of electronic records systems – a first step necessary to any successful implementation of trustworthy recordkeeping systems. Such research projects have greatly assisted in addressing the most intractable of electronic records issues: how we will capture and preserve the nation’s heritage through its increasingly born-digital electronic records for the life of the Republic.


I can testify from my consulting work that state and local levels of government and academia are heavily counting on these and other NARA/NHPRC projects to provide solutions to the same set of problems they face at their own levels, because they do not have the funding to do it themselves and because they seek more universal solutions. You may be certain that NHPRC research not only serves the needs of the federal government, but those of every state and local government jurisdiction as well.


I urge the Subcommittee to restore and increase the NHPRC budget to a level needed to continue progress in this important, if unheralded, national asset area. Thank you.




Richard E. Barry