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Government Affairs Update

Donald Forsyth Craib

As of May 22, the Senate and House budget committees' plans for balancing the federal budget include major reductions in natural and cultural resources programs throughout the federal government. Among the cuts proposed by the Senate are eliminating the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and a 10% reduction in the operating budgets of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and other important federal agencies. The House plan would have a similar impact on programs important to the nation's historic preservation system.

In addition, the House Budget Committee has recommended the complete elimination of National Science Foundation funding for the social sciences. SAA is preparing to launch a letter-writing campaign to selected members of the House Budget, Appropriations, and Science committees as well as issuing an action alert to SAA members asking them to contact their national representatives.

Although the Senate and House budget proposals--geared to elminating the deficit by the year 2002--serve chiefly as guidelines for future spending, if implemented, they would have a direct and immediate effect on archaeological programs and projects.

While both houses are busy working on bills preparing for reductions over the next few years, a rescission bill, geared to reductions in this current fiscal year, is also being considered. The bill, which has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate, includes a provision that would permit timber to be salvaged in national forests and suspend all environmental and other federal laws, thus eliminating the need for companies to undergo environmental and historical impact statements. The Clinton administration has expressed concern with this and other provisions, and the president has stated he will veto the bill when it reaches his desk. Even though it is still several months away before Congress formally begins to consider the reauthorization of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and other matters affecting archaeology, SAA has begun to develop its message, articulate position statements, and identify allies on the Hill in order to launch an effective proactive campaign to safeguard the nation's archaeological heritage.

Government Affairs Program Looking Ahead

The SAA government affairs program, working closely with the Government Affairs Committee, seeks to develop a stronger voice for archaeology in Congress and within the federal agencies. It encourages greater participation by members in legislative efforts, fosters a more proactive role at the federal level, and promotes better communication with and among SAA members. Reorganized this year to meet the new and pressing challenges facing archaeologists and the field in general, the Government Affairs Committee also has a new chair: Judith Bense (University of West Florida). Her term as chair will coincide with the two-year term of the current 104th Congress (January 1995--December 1996). In addition, the committee intends to select several members who will be responsible for prioritizing actions and issues, formulating policy recommendations, and charting an overall course for SAA's government affairs program."Issue teams" within the committee will address specific topics, and a new communications network is planned, incorporating email and fax, to get the word out directly to members of the board and government affairs committee, state representatives for the Government Affairs Network, and members at large.

Capitol Contacts

One of the goals of the government affairs program is to significantly increase the presence of SAA on Capitol Hill, within federal agencies, and among our colleagues in the preservation community. In February Bill Lipe and Bruce Smith, SAA president-elect and president, and Donna Seifert, president of the Society for Historical Archaeology, met with Bonnie Cohen, assistant secretary for policy, budget, and administration, Department of the Interior, to discuss how federal restructuring will impact archaeology programs. Kate Stevenson, associate director for cultural resources, National Park Service, and Denise Meridith, deputy director, Bureau of Land Management, also were present. One result of the meeting was an opportunity for dialogue with BLM state directors when they gathered in Alexandria, Va., in April.

In April Bill Lipe also met with Bob Bush and John Fowler, executive director and deputy director of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, to discuss how archaeology can play a more active role with the council.

In addition to making these contacts, SAA has expanded its relationships with others in the preservation community. For example, Bill Lipe and Donna Seifert met with Dick Moe, president, National Trust for Historic Preservation, to explore ways that the organizations can work better together. Ralph Johnson, SAA executive director, addressed the recent board meeting of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.

This May, representatives from SAA and SHA spent three days in Washington meeting with members of Congress, committee staff, and colleagues from the preservation community to discuss legislation being considered by the current Congress and its impact on archaeological heritage. These meetings mark the continuing cooperation between SAA and SHA.

Your Voice Counts!

If SAA is to be effective and successful in its efforts to protect archaeological resources, SAA members must become involved in the government affairs program. Thanks to all who have sent completed Government Affairs Network (GAN) surveys; the information provided will benefit SAA's lobbying efforts in many ways. If you have not yet responded but would like to become involved, please contact me at SAA, 900 Second St., NE, #12, Washington, D.C. 200023557, (202) 789-8200, fax (202) 789-0284.

Donald Forsyth Craib is manager of government affairs and counsel of SAA.

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