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Crisis in “Foreign Relations of the US” series

The Foreign Relations of the US (FRUS), one of the most important and long-standing documents recording the “official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity,” is in crisis due to mismanagement by the Office of the Historian. William Roger Louis, the esteemed historian who has chaired the Committee for the last five years, presented his views in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (pdf). According to Dr Louis, “15 historians or compilers in a staff of about 35 have left in the last three years.” It’s a sad state of affairs the such a venerable publication could succumb to petty politics.

November 28, 2008
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, D.C.

Dear Secretary of State Rice:

Foreign Relations of the United States Documentary Series

Fully conscious of the serious nature of the issues raised in this letter, I must write to you about the future of the Foreign Relations series and of the related issues of plummeting morale and mismanagement within the Office of the Historian. I have served on the oversight body of the series, the Historical Advisory Committee, for nearly ten years, five of them as chairman. I am a past President of the American Historical Association. Along with all other members of the advisory committee, I am guided by the Congressional mandate to ensure that the Foreign Relations series represents a trustworthy, full, and honest documentary record. In our judgment, the prospective fate of the series has now become so grave that it would be a failure of responsibility on my part were I not to call it to your attention.

The significance of the Foreign Relations series can be summed up by stating that, as required by Congressional legislation (Public Law 102-138), it provides the public, both here and throughout the world, with a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary account of US foreign policy. Members of Congress, government officials, scholars, journalists, and interested citizens depend on the timely appearance of the series for an understanding of the course of American foreign affairs. This historic mission is now in danger, and, for reasons I shall explain at the end, there is a certain urgency to this letter.

My concern, along with that of all members of the committee, arises from mismanagement by the Historian himself, Dr. Marc Susser. So large are the numbers of staff members leaving, or contemplating departure, that the integrity of the Foreign Relations series is now in jeopardy. To give you a rough idea of the extent of the problem, 15 historians or compilers in a staff of about 35 have left in the last three years during Dr. Susser’s tenure.

[Thanks Secrecy news!]

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