April 10, 1998
U.S. Archivist Welcomes Court Support for Work Group on Saving Electronic Records
Washington, D.C.. . .Archivist of the United States John Carlin today welcomed encouragement from a U.S. District Court for the efforts of a special work group appointed by Carlin to help the Federal Government manage, preserve, and provide access to electronic records of continuing value.
In 1995, as head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which provides guidance to federal agencies on records management and disposition, Carlin promulgated General Records Schedule 20, which permitted agencies to dispose of certain electronic records if first copied to a paper or electronic recordkeeping system. In October 1997, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman voided GRS-20 on grounds that it gave agencies too much latitude to destroy electronic records, an opinion that the Federal Government appealed.
On April 9, though action on the appeal still is pending, Judge Friedman ordered the Archivist not to issue "statements of any kind stating that General Records Schedule 20 currently authorizes the disposition of electronic records." However, the judge observed that NARA had issued a bulletin advising federal agencies on developing individual agency schedules for electronic records disposition while the work group was proceeding. And using in part language that NARA had proposed, the judge ordered publication by the Archivist of a notice in the Federal Register. This notice would advise federal agencies to follow recommendations on scheduling in NARAís bulletin. It would note that NARA has created an Electronic Records Work Group charged to give the Archivist recommendations and an implementation plan by September 30. And it would conclude with the following:
The Court has authorized the Archivist to state that a federal agency may continue to follow its present disposition practices for electronic records until: (1) September 30, 1998; (2) the agency has submitted and received approval from NARA on a Request for Records Disposition Authority; (3) notification by NARA that the appeal has been resolved and NARA has provided further guidance as a result of the appellate courtís decision; or (4) further Order of the District Court.
"We will certainly comply with this order," Archivist Carlin declared, "and will work with the Court and all interested parties in this case to achieve what we all wantCto preserve records appropriately, for the public and the government, with retention and disposition schedules that federal agencies, the creators of those records, can and will use. Quite apart from any court case, NARAís strategic plan commits us to working with agencies to find effective means for managing, preserving, and providing public access to electronic records. NARA is working now in partnership with the Department of Defense and other agencies on electronic records initiatives. The President has just proposed to the Congress a budget increase that would enable us to accelerate our electronic records work. And the Work Group is progressing on schedule towards solutions that I am confident will meet the Courtís requirements and the interests of all concerned."
For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.