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Sequester Victims Include History Buffs, As National Archives And Records Administration Takes Hit

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The National Archives and Records Administration will be the next victim of the sequester.
The National Archives and Records Administration will be the next victim of the sequester.

WASHINGTON -- History buffs may be the next victim of sequestration as cuts begin to hit federal record keepers.

The National Archives and Records Administration announced this past week that in response to a 5 percent cut in its operating budget, it would be forced to defer conservation work, slow the declassification of presidential records and reduce public hours at its museums and facilities. Though hardly of the same severity as cancer clinics rejecting Medicare patients or Head Start programs having to turn away children, the cutbacks are nevertheless a good reminder of sequestration's reach.

The changes were listed in a little-noticed memo NARA released on April 25 looking at the impact that sequestration will have on its operating plans. It will end up losing $19 million due to the cuts -- the majority of which will come from its operating expense account -- but with a budget of just $391 million, the hit will be felt.

From the memo:

Increased preservation risk. NARA will defer work to conserve and protect some of the estimated 6 billion pages of textual records and miles of audio and video recordings identified as needing preservation action. This may delay public access to some audio and video records that are only available in obsolete formats."

Slower declassification of Presidential records. NARA has reduced funding dedicated to the declassification of Presidential records. Instead, NARA staff will prepare documents for declassification, in addition to their existing duties. This will slow declassification processes and delay other work, including FOIA responses and special access requests.

NARA doesn't plan on furloughing employees this fiscal year, according to the memo, and sequestration won't disrupt the contracts that the organization currently has. But it will force a hiring freeze. NARA also intends to put out a plan detailing how it will award grants going forward, and the memo underlines the likelihood that those grants will be reduced across the board or several will be canceled altogether.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misstated the budget of NARA as slightly more than $391,000 and the cuts due to sequestration as roughly $19,000. They are $391 million and $19 million, respectively.

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