Press Release
Press Release · Monday, May 18, 1998

Press Release
May 18, 1998
National Archives Holds Public Meeting to Discuss Proposals for Management of Electronic Records

Washington, DC. . . The National Archives and Records Administration held its fourth public meeting this morning to present its draft proposals drawn up by the Electronic Records Work Group (ERWG). The lively discussion was attended by approximately 200 people from Federal agencies, historical and archival groups, and the general public.

The ERWG which consists of seven NARA staff members and eight experts from Federal agencies was established by the Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin in November 1997, to assist NARA in responding to a U.S. District Court order that declared General Records Schedule 20, Electronic Records, "null and void" and to address other concerns about the management of electronic records by the Federal government. The group was charged by Mr. Carlin to "review issues relating to the creation, maintenance, and disposition of certain types of electronic information," noting that GRS-20 needs changing to be sure that programmatic records are protected, that schedules for the disposition of records are not medium-oriented, and that records schedules are devised so that Federal agencies can and will use them. The Work Group will submit a report to the Archivist in early June. (The Archivist's charge to the group and additional background and supplemental information is posted on a NARA Internet web site at

At the meeting this morning, Michael Miller, director of the Work Group, outlined the Work Group’s proposal for scheduling program and administrative records in all media, including electronic records. Dr. Miller noted that this proposal will address the current needs of most Federal agencies because their records are still primarily paper-based. However, NARA recognizes that Federal agencies need guidance so that they can transition to electronic recordkeeping. In early June, NARA will propose a framework for developing the necessary guidance in conjunction with Federal agencies.

The Electronic Work Group’s proposal has three complementing parts:

1. Schedule All Program Records in All Formats
For program record series currently scheduled only in paper and/or microform, agencies must address scheduling the electronic copies that previously were authorized for disposal under GRS- 20, items 13 and 14. The Electronic Records Work Group (ERWG) plans to recommend that NARA issue expanded guidance on scheduling electronic copies of program records for those agencies that currently do not have electronic recordkeeping. Recognizing that the business and recordkeeping needs of agencies vary widely, the guidance will include several models that agencies can adapt to their specific scheduling needs.

2. Revise the Entire General Records Schedule to Cover All Formats of the Administrative Records Included Therein
The Electronic Records Work Group plans to recommend that NARA take action to revise General Records Schedules (GRS) 1-16, 18, and 23 to clearly indicate that the dispositions cover records in all media, including electronic mail and word processing.

3. Revise GRS-20 to Cover Only Systems Administration (Or Systems Management) and Operations Records
The Electronic Records Work Group proposes to recommend that NARA revise GRS-20 to cover only records related to system management and operations, such as files related to system use and maintenance; backup tapes; and hard copy and other records (e.g., system documentation) used in managing information systems throughout their life cycle. As revised, GRS-20 would not be a medium-specific schedule, but would cover records in all media that pertain to the administrative aspects of system management.

The Work Group considered two other options for interim approaches for handling the disposition of electronic copies of electronic mail and word processing records. One involved saving all documents for a specific period of time and the other proposed saving the documents created or received by specific individuals within an organization. Both options, however, failed to meet requirements for the proper maintenance of records. The Work Group could not identify supplemental measures that could be taken in conjunction with either of these options that would make them useful for electronic recordkeeping.

Following the presentation of the proposals, representatives from Federal agencies and users posed a number of questions relating to the implementation of records management schedules, such as: What efforts will be made to speed up approval processes of records schedules? What role will agency General Counsels play in the implementation of the Work Group’s proposals? What will be the financial impact on agencies and NARA with the implementation of the new proposals? What will be the deadlines for agencies to submit schedules to comply with the Court Order? Deputy Archivist Lewis Bellardo, Michael Miller, and Miriam Nisbet from NARA’s General Counsel staff discussed, in detail, the issues raised and the impact of the proposals of the Work Group.

After the Archivist has reviewed the Work Group’s report, the report and work products will be sent to Federal agencies for formal comment and published in the Federal Register for public comment this summer.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.


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