Federal Records Management

AC 33. 2021


Date: September 7, 2021 

Memorandum To Federal Agency Records Officers: Emergency Destruction Authority Reminder

Recent events in Afghanistan have prompted NARA to issue a reminder to Federal government agencies concerning the safeguarding of their records. 

The Federal Records Act and U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 44 U.S.C. § 3311 and 36 CFR 1229.12, provide legal authority for agency heads to authorize the emergency destruction of records in time of war or when hostile action by a foreign power seems imminent. That guidance is as follows:

§1229.12   What are the requirements during a state of war or threatened war?

(a) Destruction of records outside the territorial limits of the continental United States is authorized whenever, during a state of war between the United States and any other nation or when hostile action appears imminent, the head of the agency that has custody of the records determines that their retention would be prejudicial to the interest of the United States, or that they occupy space urgently needed for military purposes and are without sufficient administrative, fiscal, legal, historical, or other value to warrant their continued preservation.

Within six months after the destruction of any records under this authorization, the agency official who directed the destruction must submit a written statement to NARA explaining the reasons for the destruction and a description of the records and how, when, and where the destruction was accomplished. The statement may be sent by email to rm.communications@nara.gov or by mail to: 

National Archives and Records Administration
Office of the Chief Records Officer (AC)
8601 Adelphi Road; College Park, MD 20740-6001

Managing agency records and information is a critical part of successfully meeting our missions. During this challenging period, we appreciate your attention to this important matter. 



Chief Records Officer 
for the U.S. Government