Records Managers

Strategic Directions: General Records Schedules


National Archives and Records Administration
Strategic Directions: General Records Schedules


May 2004

INTRODUCTION
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has developed a series of strategies for improving the General Records Schedules (GRS) including adding additional categories of records. The following document presents the strategies for improving and expanding the GRS. Some of the strategies can be adopted quickly and relatively easily. Others will involve extensive changes and will require coordination with stakeholders, including Federal agencies, the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

I: STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE THE EXISTING GRS

Strategy I.1: Assign responsibility for the GRS. Responsibility is assigned to the Life Cycle Management Division Work Group 6.
Contact information: Susan Elter at (301) 837-1683 or Susan.Elter@nara.gov.

Strategy I.2: Revise the current GRS to make it more usable/user-friendly.
NARA will use this opportunity to update the index and make the several sections of the GRS a single, searchable online document.

Strategy I.3: Survey non-Federal general records schedules.
NARA will thoroughly explore and learn from other models and applications of good records disposition practice outside the Federal community. There are records management leaders in private industry, higher education, and state and local governments that share NARA's records management challenges, goals, and objectives. Any evaluation of the GRS will consider best practices in records scheduling outside the U.S. Federal Government. We will consider broad categories and business lines or functions.

Strategy I.4: Survey agency records officers for their input on expanding the GRS.
Ask agencies what they would like to see in the way of changes and additions to the GRS. This request can be presented to agency records officers through a memorandum to agency records officers or at a BRIDG meeting.

Strategy I.5: Revise descriptions in the current GRS to make the chapters and items more widely applicable and identify areas/chapters/items of the GRS that can be combined.
This will include clarifying current descriptions and identifying areas/chapters/items that can be expanded. This change will also strengthen the GRS as a tool for dealing with the mounting quantities of routine, administrative records and also reduce the need for agency specific dispositions.

II: STRATEGIES TO EXPAND COVERAGE OF THE GRS

Strategy II.1: Use of mandatory minimum retention periods whenever possible.
Use mandatory minimum retention periods and make requesting extensions to GRS retention periods non-mandatory if agencies need longer retention to meet a business need. NARA will use dispositions that allow agencies to dispose of records after a minimum retention period unless needed longer for agency administrative needs will be considered. NARA will encourage agencies to balance costs and risks with benefits in customizing their retention periods. Use of this strategy will require a statutory change.

Strategy II.2: List items in the GRS that agencies may destroy when no longer needed.
This option will allow agencies greater latitude in deciding when to destroy certain records once their usefulness has been met. This could reduce the number of records with short retention periods that need to be scheduled. NARA will not use this option for records with legal rights implications.

Strategy II.3: Develop GRS authorities or a separate GRS for temporary program records that are likely to be created by every Federal agency.
Every agency has temporary program records that could be described in general categories. If a new temporary program records general schedule is established, it will be coordinated with the existing General Records Schedules. (see Strategy I.2 above).

Strategy II.4: Recast Appendix C of the Disposition of Federal Records along the lines of governmental functions with associated records.
DFR Appendix C lists fifteen series of records that are normally considered to have archival value and are usually appraised for permanent retention. Issuance of these series with a media neutral instruction could substantially reduce the number of items appraised each year.

Strategy II.5: Proposals for immediate action on new GRS items:

  1. Program Functions
    • Temporary Boards and Commissions (draft exists)
    • Agency Advisory Committees (examples exist)
    • Chief Financial Officers
    • Chief Information Officers
  2. Administrative Functions

Strategy II.6: Develop a one-day class or short seminar (and/or RACO session) on using the newly developed GRS, especially if a new records schedule is developed which includes permanent items.

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