Secrecy News

IG: State Dept Should Produce 12 FRUS Volumes Per Year

The Department of State must begin producing new volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series at a rate of a dozen volumes per year if it is going to fulfill its statutory mandate to document the history of U.S. foreign policy not later than 30 years after the fact, the State Department Inspector General said in a new report (pdf).

“The [State Department Historian's Office] is behind schedule in meeting the statutory FRUS deadline: HO historians only now are compiling the contents of the volumes covering the foreign policy of the Carter administration (1977-1981),” the Inspector General report said.  “To achieve compliance with the 30-year deadline, HO will need to accelerate the rate of publication to approximately 12 volumes per year.”

The IG audit found that after a controversial period of management turmoil in 2007 and 2008 culminating in a 2009 IG inspection report (pdf), conditions in the Historian’s Office had stabilized, with “improved morale, reduced factionalism, and [a] strengthened spirit of civility” as well as “greater openness and a more participatory style of management.”  But more recently, as the pace of internal reform has slowed, “morale has begun to decline.”

See “Report of Inspection: The Bureau of Public Affairs,” U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General, February 2010, at pp. 34-38.

0 thoughts on “IG: State Dept Should Produce 12 FRUS Volumes Per Year

  1. Talk about pie in the sky. At its best the Historian’s Office never produced 12 volumes in one year.

    Regardless of the IG’s recommendations, the office still lacks a permanent replacement for the Historian position (the current “acting” Historian divides his time between Washington DC and teaching in North Carolina, giving free rein to many of the people responsible for the “turmoil” of 2007-2009), the General Editor slot hasn’t been filled, one of the current supervisors never met a deadline he couldn’t miss, and there are financial problems as contractors convert to federal employees. Exactly how does this wiring of positions fit with Civil Service hiring regulations? Having a disparity in income between civil servants doing the same job in the same office is a recipe for factionalism and disaster.

    As for the temporarily improved morale that has “begun to decline,” chalk that up to the sense of euphoria with the removal of the old management. Having produced a grand total of 3 volumes last year—two of them online-only, and one print volume that has yet to be printed but was put up as a digital file—reality must be sinking in.

    The OIG team found that a grand total of 3 out of 24 recommendations had been implemented in the last year. That’s positively Stalinist. Actually, that’s more Orwellian since Stalin would have shot anybody who didn’t produce 28 Stakhonovite recommendations.

    It sounds like the Historian’s Office staff should spend less time in feel-good “working groups” and more time focusing on trying to produce 12 FRUS volumes a year.

    The office used to be on the leading edge of declassification and provided a pulse check on openness in the federal government. Now the Historian’s Office is 5-10 years overdue on meeting its statutory deadlines. Furthermore, it has become obsolete, costing millions of taxpayer dollars and lagging a decade behind non-profit groups like the National Security Archive, which brandishes the Freedom of Information Act to publish thousands of pages of declassified material every year.

  2. Welcome to the discussion forum, disgruntled ex-State Department employee Concerned Taxpayer! How is the weather out there in Northern Virginia?

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