About the National Archives

The Electronic Records Archives (ERA) - Option Award, remarks by Allen Weinstein, September 8, 2005

Remarks by Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States
September 8, 2005

Welcome. We are here to talk about the National Archives and Records Administration's Electronic Records Archives or ERA. Today, we will name the company that will build the ERA, NARA's archives of the future and for the future. Speaking as Archivist of the United States, I am indebted to those who acted decades and centuries ago to ensure that the records of our past were preserved for use today. These parchments, pieces of paper, photographs, and maps have allowed us to reconstruct and understand the story of our nation and its people.

Today, we act on behalf not only of archivists but of all Americans of the 21st Century who will use the electronic records being created by the Federal Government, today and tomorrow, to research, write, and understand the history of our times. The ERA will make that possible. The Electronic Records Archives' goal is clear and simple: a system that accepts, preserves, and makes accessible - far into the future - any type of electronic document. Moreover, it will do so regardless of what hardware and software was used to create the document. Obviously, achieving this in our ERA program will require much continued hard work and creativity from the experienced NARA staff and the staff of the company I will name shortly.

This effort also requires success in a climate of urgency, since there is an unprecedented number of electronic records now being created by the Government's departments and agencies, all of which is headed toward NARA. The most important of these records will be preserved and will be accessible indefinitely. This simply must happen. For that reason, let me make one thing clear: As far as the National Archives and Records Administration is concerned, the Electronic Records Archives' failure is not an option. The stakes for our country are simply too high.

  • Without an ERA, many of the records of the presidency of George W. Bush could be lost forever.

  • Without an ERA, vital national security documents-such as battle plans, weapons designs, and sensitive intelligence information-at best, could be difficult to access, or at worst, lost.

  • Without an ERA, senior citizens, veterans, and others could find it difficult or even impossible to prove their eligibility for promised government benefits in their retirement or in time of need.

The Electronic Records Archive is critical in enabling NARA to accomplish its mission. But the development of ERA will have benefits that spread across the Federal Government and beyond. Across the Government, there are many agencies which have to keep active electronic records for decades. ERA is driving the development of new technologies which will enable them to keep and use those records, while taking advantage of improvements in information technology. Outside the federal realm, archives in state and local governments, in universities and private companies, face challenges similar to NARA's. The development of ERA will help all records administrators to find solutions adapted to their particular needs.

Keep in mind, however, that today's announcement does not mean we have solved for the duration the problem of how best to manage and preserve the Federal Government's electronic records. In short, the Electronic Records Archives is not a panacea. It is a good start, a beginning, a major first step-and it comes at a critical time in our history.

But, before I name the company that will build the Electronic Records Archives, I would like to thank the companies that competed for award of this contract, especially the two companies that provided us with alternative designs under the one year fixed-price contract. The competition was intended to provide us with the very best design and greatest expertise that the private sector has to offer. I believe that the competition achieved its goals, and we appreciate the efforts of all the contractors and subcontractors who worked on this project.

The company NARA has chosen to build the ERA is Lockheed Martin. We selected Lockheed Martin

  • because of the technical merit of the solution it has proposed;

  • because of how well and thoroughly it came to grips with the intricacies of NARA's responsibilities;

  • because of the excellence of their system and software engineering methodology; and

  • because of the quality of their project management.

While I cannot go into the many details of Lockheed Martin's technical solution, I will say that we have been impressed with the company's ability to design a system which addresses in considerable depth NARA's business needs, on the one hand, and on the other hand, a system that entails a modern, service-oriented architecture.

NARA's business needs encompass handling rapidly-growing volumes of electronic records, ensuring the authenticity of those records preserved for the long term, and providing public access while protecting privacy and sensitive information. The system's architecture makes it flexible enough to accommodate evolving policy changes. The $308 million award will cover all contract costs for development, acquisition of hardware and software products, integration, deployment, and operational support from now through FY 2012.

Now, I want to invite Don Antonucci of Lockheed Martin to say a few words.