National Archives News

National Archives Guides Federal Agencies on Managing Electronic Records

By Kerri Lawrence  |  National Archives News

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2018 — Earlier this week, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) held its first forum to discuss management of digital records moving into the 21st century.

As of December, 31, 2022, the agency will no longer accept records in analog or text form. So NARA is proactively providing guidance now on how Federal agencies can best meet the new electronic records management (ERM) requirements of the future.   

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Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer of the United States, opens the Industry Day forum at the National Archives on August 6, 2018.  (National Archives photo by Jeff Reed)

Held in conjunction with the General Services Administration (GSA), the goal of the event, dubbed “Industry Day,” was to bring together Federal agencies in need of solutions to manage electronic records with the private vendors who can provide those solutions. It also offered vendors and agency representatives the opportunity to ask technical questions related to the type of help agencies will need.

“The questions and the feedback from the vendors were very interesting, and the GSA partners have been great to work with,” said Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer of the United States. “It’s very exciting to go beyond policy to begin to solve real problems in ERM.”

According to Brewer, this was just one step in the agency’s continuing mission to guide Federal agencies through the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI), the umbrella under which NARA is working to improve the management of electronic records by other Federal departments and agencies. The aim is to have the records in good order when they are eventually transferred to NARA.

FERMI, which launched in October 2015, strives to help agencies navigate the vendor marketplace and procure electronic records management tools and services to meet NARA requirements as well as their specific needs. 

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Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer of the United States, stands at the podium with a panel discussing management of electronic records. From left, Lisa Haralampus, Director of Policy and Outreach at NARA; Jeffrey Calhoun, MAS Branch Chief for GSA; Courtney Anderson, ERM policy analyst for NARA; and Ivana Henry, Business Development Director for GSA. (National Archives photo by Jeff Reed.)

Approximately 140 people attended the event, representing 60 vendors and 35 Federal agencies, with about 200 more attending virtually. The forum—held at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC—was recorded and is available on NARA’s YouTube channel.

Next, vendors will be working the GSA to provide their solutions to problems in scenarios in so-called “use cases” developed by NARA that present problems agencies will encounter in managing electronic records. For now, the “use cases” focus on electronic messaging. Future “use cases” will focus on social media, websites, databases, and desktop applications.

NARA has been preparing for the transition to electronic recordkeeping and management for decades since it created the Electronic Records Archives (ERA). The ERA will hold the most important electronic records created by Federal agencies.