The Federal Records Act
Records are the foundation of open government, supporting the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. Well-managed records can be used to assess the impact of programs, to improve business processes, and to share knowledge across the Government. Records protect the rights and interests of people, and hold officials accountable for their actions. Permanent records document our nation's history.
Looking for information about the Presidential Records Act? Find it on this page.
The Office of the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government is responsible for Records Management Policy, Appraisal, Scheduling, Oversight, Reporting, and Training for federal government organizations covered under the Federal Records Act (FRA).
- Federal Records Management
- Federal Records Management Training Program
- Federal Records Management Training Catalog
- Training Materials for Electronic Records
- Records Management Contacts
FRA—NARA Bulletins Issued to Agencies
- NARA Bulletin on Records Management Training
- NARA Bulletin on Electronic Messages
- NARA Bulletin on Capstone Approach for Managing Email
Federal agencies are required to manage their email records in accordance with the Federal Records Act and 36 CFR Chapter XII Sub-chapter B. The issuance of NARA Bulletin 2013-2 established “the Capstone Approach” as an alternative means of managing email, while the transmittal of GRS 6.1 provides disposition authority for the approach.
- Email Specific Guidance and Resources
- Capstone Training and Resources
- Sample Agency Implementation of Capstone
- How Federal Agencies Are Approaching Email Disposition
- Federal Email Management Reports
Disposal of Federal Records
Authorized Disposal of Federal Records - requires NARA notification
Section 2203 of the Presidential Records Act, as amended (PRA) states that the incumbent President must obtain the views in writing of the Archivist before disposing of any Presidential records. This authority is routinely used to dispose of the extremely large volumes of public mail that the President and Vice President receive on a daily basis. Under certain circumstances, the Archivist must inform Congress of the proposed disposal. In these cases, the President must wait at least sixty legislative days before disposing of them. After the President’s term, the Archivist has authority to dispose of Presidential records, following a public notice and comment period. See Guidance on Presidential Records.
Unauthorized Disposal of Federal Records
NARA does not conduct criminal investigations or inquiries for alleged incidents of unauthorized disposition. Agencies are responsible for investigating the allegations and reporting to NARA. In certain cases of unauthorized disposition, including the removal of records from government custody and control, the Federal Records Act authorizes referrals to the Department of Justice and the Attorney General.
The Records Management Oversight and Reporting Program handles unauthorized disposition cases. Federal agencies are required to "notify the Archivist of any actual, impending, or threatened unlawful removal, defacing, alteration, corruption, deletion, erasure, or other destruction of records in the custody of the agency" (36 CFR Part 1230). This includes incidents from accidental deletion of electronic records to the loss of paper files or boxes during the course of shipping or relocation. NARA also receives notifications from other sources (i.e. media and citizens). NARA tracks each allegation and any communications with the agency until the issue is resolved. See Unauthorized Disposition Website—Case correspondence and summaries. To report unauthorized disposition, email UnauthorizedDisposition@nara.gov.
FRA/Records Management Brochures and Pamphlets
- Protecting Federal Records and Other Documentary Materials from Unauthorized Removal
- Records Management Profile Brochure
- Appraisal Policy of the National Archives and Records Administration
- Transferring Permanent Electronic Records to NARA: Answers to Top 5 Questions
- Pre-Accessioning: A Strategy for Preserving Permanent Electronic Records
Records Management Publications
- Disposition of Federal Records—How to develop, implement, and evaluate records disposition programs in Federal agencies.
- Documenting Your Public Service—Information to distinguish federal records from other documentary materials, including personal files.
- Vital Records and Records Disaster Mitigation and Recovery—Guidance on how to manage vital records throughout their life cycle, to protect them from loss in a disaster, and to assist in recovery should a disaster occur.
- Records and Information Management Self-Evaluation Guide—Self-evaluation guide for reviewing components of a records and information management program.
- Posters to promote good records management
Records Management Blog: Records Express
- Records Management and FOIA: So Happy Together, Records Express
- Transition Post 2: Entrance and Exit Checklists for Senior Officials, Records Express
- Guidance on Presidential and Federal Records, AOTUS Blog
- Records Management Training Videos and Webinars
- The Case for Records Management: Issues for Legal Counsel
- The Case for Records Management: Issues for Legal Counsel, Part 2
- Records in Transition A Conversation with NARA Leaders
- Records Management Guidance for Political Appointees
- Guidance on Managing Social Media Records
- Capstone Email Management Implementation: Technical Perspective
- What Is Records Management Instructional Support? (ReMIS)
- What Is a Records Schedule?