Senate confirms NARA boss
- By Aliya Sternstein
- Feb 14, 2005
The Senate has confirmed historian Allen Weinstein as the next leader of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Weinstein, a former historian and, most recently, president of the Center for Democracy, replaces John Carlin. The nomination was not without some controversy. Members of the Society of American Archivists applauded Carlin's appointment last week but also repeated previously stated objections to the nomination process. The archivists group has suggested that Bush administration officials chose Weinstein without consulting the public on the manner. Last Spring, when this became public, the archivists' society stated that such a process could lead to partisan actions and could subject any nominee to partisan pressures.
"Someone in the White House was pushing Carlin out the door at the same time they were trying to get Weinstein nominated," said Randall Jimerson, president of the archivists society.
Members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee heard from outside groups last year, including the National Coalition for History and ARMA International, before approving Weinstein for a vote by the full Senate. "We worked extensively with a number of organizations leading up to professor Weinstein's nomination," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the committee. "The groups we heard from were supportive of professor Weinstein's nomination to be archivist."
The president can remove the archivist, but the law mandates that he must provide Congress with an explanation of his reasons, according to the Society of American Archivists. The group is concerned that the White House did not provide reasons why it asked Carlin, a Democrat and former Kansas governor, to resign. SAA officials worry that the nominating process could force future archivists to feel that they need to toe a party line.
Weinstein has made formal contact with Jimerson's organization and expressed a desire to collaborate on initiatives. "We see that as a hopeful sign of partnership and collaboration," Jimerson said, but added that "SAA never did endorse the nomination, nor did we oppose it. We wanted to highlight the fact that the nomination process was flawed."
J. Timothy Sprehe, an information resources management consultant to federal agencies, initially decried Weinstein's nomination as a political move. "I'm less vocal now," Sprehe said today.
If Weinstein can enforce his own agenda and remain autonomous of the Bush administration, he might be more qualified for the position than Carlin was, Sprehe added. "One key question will be what happens to the records of the 9-11 Commission? What happens to the public access of those records?" asked Sprehe, who writes a column for Federal Computer Week.
Sprehe and Jimerson agreed that Weinstein's confirmation will not affect NARA's ambitious Electronic Records Archives program, which is in its infancy. "That's pretty much on track," Sprehe said. "It has widespread bipartisan support."
Jimerson said, "I think that he has expressed commitment to the initiatives