Monday, April 20, 2009

Some Informed Speculation About the Office of the Historian

Here's some info received today from Anger Management, a commenter who has been keeping me posted on the latest developments at the State Department's Office of the Historian.

Thanks again, AM.

Anger_Management said...

A new article by John Maggs at the National Journal (subscription required) asserts: "An unusual revolt by State Department employees is expected to trigger the ouster of the bureaucrat heading the Office of the Historian, a unique squad of 35 academics charged by statute with impartially chronicling America's foreign relations.

State Department Historian Marc Susser and his aide Douglas Kraft will be removed and offered other civil service positions, based on a recommendation by State's inspector general's office that will be finalized and published in the next two weeks, according to current and former employees of the office.

Although senior officials have not yet endorsed the recommendation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Wood last week began briefing staff historians on the decision, out of concern that several of them might soon quit or be forced out by Susser and Kraft. Susser's office said on Wednesday that he was on leave "for the next couple of days."

Seems like the die has been cast. It will be interesting to see the official announcement and -- as Maggs points out -- the extent to which the decision might have implications for other offices at the State Department, especially for those responsible for overseeing Susser's work.

So it looks like the OIG report is making its way through the DOS system. This is something to keep an eye on.


Update (April 21)

Here'a a link to an article on the state of the HO controversy by William Rogers Louis, which I hadn't seen before today even though it's a few weeks old: Preserving Our History: Unfinished Business at Foggy Bottom.

Two key quotes:

I served for nearly 10 years as a member of the [Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation], 5 of them as chairman. On December 10, 2008, I resigned to protest mismanagement of the State Department’s Office of the Historian, which is responsible for production of the series. For well over a year, members of the staff had reported to us examples of cronyism, favoritism in promotions, and forced resignations .... I witnessed a general atmosphere of mistrust and plummeting morale.

-- snip --

It is now up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to implement the [OIG] report’s recommendations. The scholarly community and interested citizens need to make sure that she does so ... Until the Secretary of State actually takes action there will be a fog of unfinished business at Foggy Bottom, and the future of the Foreign Relations series will remain in jeopardy.


Anger_Management said...

The OIG report is out! See Management Review of the Office of the Historian Bureau of Public Affairs U.S. Department of State (ISP-I-09-43) (May 09).

BTW, Susser has reportedly begun at a new position. Ambassador John Campbell is currently serving as director of HO.

TSB said...


Thanks very much! I appreciate the heads-up and the link to the report.

I hope the OIG recommendations will put the HO back on a solid footing.