Conflict Records Research Center: Update

Nearly two months ago this blog told the sad tale of how, through a lack of funds and vision, the Department of Defense was about to axe the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC), one of the bright spots for increased DoD and Intelligence Community transparency in recent years.

At the eleventh hour, the CRRC seems to have been saved, sorta-kinda. The future CRRC will have a vastly reduced staff but will survive in skeleton form. The below email, sent today by the Center’s interim director, provides the details:

I am writing to provide you with a brief update on the status of the CRRC.  I am pleased to inform you that the CRRC will remain open and accessible to scholars through September 2014.  The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy will provide bridge funding for one employee to keep the CRRC’s doors open until the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offers resolution on the permanent disposition of the CRRC.

As previously noted, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) recommends that the CRRC receive $1 million in FY14.  Additionally, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense includes an appropriation of $1 million for the CRRC in its FY14 NDAA markup.  It remains unclear, however, when the NDAA will become law, and whether this language will remain unchanged.

I regret to inform you that Mr. David Palkki, who served as the CRRC Deputy Director and Acting Director, has left the Center for a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellowship with the Council on Foreign Relations.  Furthermore, the CRRC’s Digital Archivist, Senior Translator, and Research Analyst for the al-Qaeda and Associated Movement’s collection will not be renewed due to lack of funding.  Please be advised that these personnel shortages will adversely impact the rate that new records are added to the CRRC’s Research Database, email response times, website updates, and all other CRRC operations.

Of course, all this assumes that, eventually, Congress will provide an FY14 budget. “Hope dies last,” as the Germans say. So there will be a place with a CRRC sign on the door but really no staff. I find this simply stupid but I am trying to find hope that more funds may eventually become available. In all, a sad commentary on how little DoD actually values transparency and outreach to scholars and journalists.