Federal Records Management

Schedule Updates


Agencies need to review their Requests for Records Disposition Authority (also known as records schedules, or simply schedules) at least annually and update them whenever necessary, including within 6 months of receipt of a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) transmittal of new or revised General Records Schedule (GRS). As agencies change, so do their records. These changes include the following:

  • Changes in legislation or program regulations
  • Changes in program priorities, policies, procedures, or information flow
  • Discontinued programs and responsibilities.
  • New programs and responsibilities
  • The impact of automation on records, such as electronic systems that replace paper-based systems
  • Internal reorganizations affecting the nature, content, and importance of existing records, especially in agencies arranging their schedules organizationally
  • Increases or decreases in office space

These changes can make it necessary to add, revise, or delete schedule items covering record series and systems. It may also be necessary to update instructions for handling nonrecord materials and for transferring records.

Annual reviews or spot checks can reveal situations affecting the schedule. In large agencies, records officers should ask liaison personnel to report any proposed schedule changes on a form such as the one in this example.

New Schedule Items

Some series or systems may be missing from the schedule because they were overlooked during the inventory. Others result from new programs or new responsibilities for old programs. While a new agency has 2 years to develop a comprehensive schedule, an established agency must schedule the records of a new program within 1 year of the program's implementation (36 CFR 1225.22).

Revised Schedule Items

Schedule items typically need revision for three reasons:

  • Lack of clarity. The approved schedule may have items with unclear descriptions or imprecise disposition instructions. Files custodians may not be able to match schedule items to their records. Or they may find that the retention periods are based on a rare event or on an incorrect cutoff date. Case files normally filed together may appear on the schedule as several series with different retention periods. Or a schedule item may need revision because a form has had its number changed or been merged with other forms. Finally, unclear schedule descriptions may have resulted from incorrect inventory information. Whatever the source of the problem, it needs to be corrected promptly. An agency must submit a schedule to modify the retention period of a record series or system or to change the substance of the description. A schedule is unnecessary if the changes are merely editorial ones not affecting the final disposition or the description's substance.
  • Inadequate retention periods for non-GRS items. Experience may show that the original retention periods may be too long or too short. To identify records held too long, agencies should concentrate first on those record series or systems with retention periods exceeding 10 years and then on those with shorter retention periods. Whatever the proposed change in retention period, it is necessary to submit a schedule to NARA to request approval.
  • New or revised GRS items. Whenever NARA issues a change to the GRS, the agency has 6 months to update its comprehensive schedule covering any applicable records. If the agency wishes to continue using an existing authority it must provide notification to NARA.  See the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about GRS Notifications for more information.

More detailed information about changes to approved schedules is available in the resource: FAQs About Changes to Previously Approved Schedule Items.

Discontinued Series or Systems

Some records described in the agency schedule may no longer accumulate because:

A function is transferred by statute, Executive order, or treaty to another agency. Before transferring the records, the creating agency should destroy all temporary records whose retention periods have expired. As soon as it loses custody of the remaining records, the agency should delete the relevant items from its schedule.

An agency program is terminated. After meeting its immediate needs, the agency should destroy all temporary records whose retention periods have expired and retire the remainder to a records center unless all the records can be proposed for immediate destruction. The schedule items should remain in effect until all applicable records are disposed of or transferred to the National Archives.

Nonrecord Material Coverage

Since a comprehensive schedule also contains disposition instructions for nonrecord materials, the agency should review these instructions for accuracy and clarity and make any necessary changes. The instructions should include a warning against mixing such materials with the office's records and against letting them proliferate in expensive office space.

Cutoff Instructions

The schedule should be reviewed for any necessary revisions to the instructions for cutting off, or breaking, records.

Transfer Instructions

The agency should review its instructions for transferring records to agency storage areas, records centers, and the National Archives to ensure compliance with agency needs and NARA regulations. The schedule and related directives should be amended to require the prompt and systematic transfer of eligible records to such storage facilities. If the agency needs to change its instructions for transferring records to records centers or the National Archives, it should not submit a schedule but simply send NARA a letter of request, citing the appropriate schedule.

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