Historians want to chronicle inter-government relations

Monday - 7/13/2009, 12:25pm EDT

James Carafano

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By Emily Jarvis
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio

There are historians that study rock music, English dictionaries and Harry Potter. But right now there is no national historian chronicling inter-government relations between agencies.

Sure every government agency has its own historian, but there is no communication between agencies.

Dr. James Carafano is the Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, he believes there should be a national historian. He spoke with Tom Temin and Jane Norris on the Federal Drive, "Who is really writing the history of the government trying to work together? If this is one of the most vital, most important things we need to get right today, and we have seen this [need for inter-agency communication] in Katrina in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why isn't anybody looking at what we've done from this broad perspective?"

The breakdown of government communication in the wake of Katrina is just one of the reasons Carafano believes a historian could help with future crises. "The Homeland Security Council basically had to stop what it was doing in the wake of Katrina. It's not about growing government, its not about bureaucracy. If we are doing this for every federal agency why don't we do this for the government as a whole?"

But it may be difficult to separate the politics from the history. "It's impossible to take the politics out of everything. After World War II, Army historians wrote the army history and no one debated if they were politically correct or not, because they were the people who were there before World War II," said Carafano.

Carafano cites the 9/11 Commission as a prime argument for making a national historian. "If we had an inter-agency history office in practice when 9/11 happened, we wouldn't of had to make a commission, because we would of had long standing professionals with codes of ethics, who would be doing that.

Ten year terms for historians, Carafano believes would also help to reduce the politics. The Heritage Foundation believes the "new" historian should be housed in the National Archives Building, where academics, historians and federal employees could all gain easy access.