Press/Journalists
Press Release
January 22, 1999
Additional Help for Government Electronic Record Keepers Announced by National Archives and Records Administration Washington, DC--More help for Federal agencies struggling to manage electronic records will come from a project announced today by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). At a meeting next week of Federal records and information officials, NARA will launch a Fast Track Guidance Development Project, the latest of several steps to carry out an agenda announced by Archivist of the United States John Carlin last fall.

The new project is called "Fast Track" because its goal is to identify "best practices" currently available and provide guidance quickly on electronic-records issues that urgently confront Federal record keepers now--guidance they can use while work goes forward on developing more complete and longer-term solutions. NARA will explain the project to Federal agency records officers and information-resource managers at a meeting of the Bimonthly Records and Information Discussion Group (BRIDG) at the National Archives Building on January 26.

"Electronic records pose the biggest challenge ever to record keeping in the Federal Government and elsewhere," Archivist Carlin declared in announcing an action agenda last September 21. "How do we identify, manage, preserve, and provide on-going access to e-mail, word-processing documents, and other kinds of electronic records that are proliferating in formats, mushrooming in quantity, and vulnerable to quick deletion, media instability, and system obsolescence? There is no option to finding answers, however, because the alternative is irretrievable information, unverifiable documentation, diminished government accountability, and lost history."

Subsequently NARA has taken three of the four steps called for by Mr. Carlin in that statement:

  • NARA has drafted a bulletin to guide agencies in working with NARA on scheduling how long to keep electronic copies of records of their program activities and certain administrative functions formerly covered by General Records Schedule 20, which a Federal court had ruled null and void. The bulletin is under review by the Office of Management and Budget and Federal agencies.
  • NARA has promulgated changes to other general records schedules that authorize the disposal by Federal agencies of certain administrative records, regardless of physical format.
  • NARA is drafting a new general records schedule for certain administrative records documenting the management of information technology.
In addition, NARA participated in the creation of, and has endorsed, a standard developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) on design criteria for electronic records management software applications, described by Deputy U.S. Archivist Lewis Bellardo as "a starting point for agencies that want to begin implementing electronic record keeping now." And NARA is working with DoD and other Federal agencies on other technical projects of potential value to government agencies generally in dealing with electronic records.

The Fast Track project implements the final point in the agenda laid out by Mr. Carlin last fall. NARA’s revisions of the general records schedules were based on recommendations by an interagency Electronic Records Work Group that Mr. Carlin had created. Noting in his September statement that "agencies need additional assistance soon," Mr. Carlin called for a "follow-on group" to provide it.

Accordingly, at the heart of the Fast Track project will be a Project Work Team, composed of persons with relevant expertise from NARA’s staff, individuals from other Federal agencies with expertise in records management, systems development, and information technology, and expert consultants from outside the Federal Government. Michael Miller, director of NARA’s Modern Records Programs, will be the project director. The Work Team will have guidance from an Archivist’s Review Team of NARA officials, will draw additional technical help on specific issues from a Technical Advisory Group, and will have project support from a contractor, part of whose job will be to identify sources of expertise as needed. As the project unfolds, NARA will keep Federal agencies, professional associations, and other interested members of the public informed on the Fast Track project, and obtain views from them, through public briefings and postings to NARA’s web site.

"The idea here is to develop answers to questions that NARA and/or the agencies consider critical for immediate attention," Mr. Carlin said. At the same time, with funds approved by the Congress and the President in the budget for Fiscal Year 1999, NARA also will begin a broader business-process re-engineering study of how Federal records, in all formats, are identified, appraised, scheduled, and tracked while in agency custody.

For information on the January 26 BRIDG meeting at which Fast Track will be discussed, please contact Susan Sallaway by phone at (301) 837-3570 ext. 267, or by e-mail at susan.sallaway@nara.gov.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.

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