This week marks one full year since publication of the latest print volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, the official documentary record of U.S. foreign policy which dates back to the Abraham Lincoln Administration.
Publication of FRUS is required by law (Public Law 102-138) and is supposed to occur “not more than 30 years after the events recorded.”
But while FRUS has long lagged behind its 30 year deadline, the failure to publish even a single print volume all year is extraordinary and unprecedented in living memory.
“Let’s just say that it didn’t happen on my watch that a year would pass without a volume published,” said one former State Department official. (Two electronic document collections were posted on the State Department web site earlier this year.)
As recently as June 2007, the State Department was still indicating that “10, possibly 11, volumes were scheduled for publication by the end of the year.” But that didn’t happen.
In September, FRUS General Editor Edward C. Keefer “expressed regret that this number [of published FRUS volumes] fell short of earlier projections of 2007 volume production due to a series of problems and in spite of the best efforts of the staff to solve them,” according to the minutes of a September 2007 meeting of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation.
According to one outside source, the situation has been complicated by staff turnover, “indifferent management,” and even a pending Inspector General complaint.
In response to an email inquiry from Secrecy News, however, FRUS Editor Keefer wrote that “It is not quite as bad as you think.”
“We have two print volumes ready to go,” Dr. Keefer said. “The books are overdue from the printer, but we will try to release them before the end of the year.”
Dr. Keefer said he would provide a fuller response after the holidays.