June 5, 2008
MEMORANDUM TO FEDERAL AGENCY CONTACTS: Annual report of Federal agency progress on statutory records management responsibilities
At the close of each the fiscal year, NARA reports to Congress and OMB on the results of agency records management activities across the Government. This reporting requirement, authorized under 44 USC 2904(c)(8), is fulfilled through NARA's annual Performance and Accountability Report (PAR).
Traditionally, the PAR has emphasized positive agency records management achievements such as scheduling electronic records and transferring electronic records to NARA. Also included in the PAR is NARA's recognition of those agencies that received the Archivist Achievement Awards for outstanding accomplishments in various aspects of their records management programs. Rarely, however, has NARA identified specific agencies that need to make significant improvements in their programs to mitigate clear risks to agency efficiency and effectiveness.
Beginning this year NARA will identify agencies where we believe there are records management program risks that need to be addressed. As we move ever closer to the 2009 deadline for identifying, scheduling, and transferring electronic records, we believe it is important to inform Congress and OMB of both the successes and challenges we are facing as a community in meeting this goal and to document the results annually in the PAR. For more information on the E-Government Act requirements for electronic records scheduling and transfer, please refer to the recent NARA bulletins 2006-02 and 2008-03 (http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/bulletins/index.html).
In addition, for FY 2008 NARA will begin reporting on cases of unauthorized removal or disposal of Federal records. In accordance with 44 U.S.C. 3106, Federal agencies are required to notify the Archivist of the United States of all alleged unauthorized disposition of the agency's records (see also 36 CFR 1228.104). NARA also receives notifications from other sources such as the news media and private citizens. For each allegation, NARA establishes a case file and communicates with the agency until the issue is resolved.
To give you an idea of the scope of the problem and consequently why we believe it is important to focus on these cases, in FY 2007, there were 31 open cases of unauthorized disposition with only 7 cases closed. NARA is concerned that the large number of open and unresolved cases is an indication of weakness in agency records management programs where risks need to be identified and corrected. Agencies need to ensure that adequate and proper documentation is being created and maintained, and that these records support the business needs of the agency and protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and its citizens.
Looking towards FY 2009, NARA is planning on working more closely with agencies to develop additional areas of records management evaluation and reporting to improve overall compliance with legal requirements.
I encourage you to work within your agencies to resolve the open cases. Your agency appraiser can assist you in providing the details and status of each case, as well as the steps you will need to take in order to satisfactorily close each one. Later this fiscal year, if cases remain unresolved, we will follow up directly with agencies to determine what actions must occur to close them out.
If you have any questions about this memo, please contact the Lifecycle Management Division appraiser or Regional Records Management Contact with whom your agency normally works. A list of the appraisal and scheduling work groups is posted on the NARA web site at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/appraisal/. A list of NARA regional records management offices may be found http://www.archives.gov/locations/records-management.html.
PAUL M. WESTER, JR.
Modern Records Programs