Federal Records Management

Records Management Guidance for Political Appointees and Senior Officials

As a political appointee, you may enter and leave federal service with the change of administrations that occurs during Presidential Transitions. As a public servant, you have a duty to manage the records and information you create and receive. Records management is required by law. Many records created and received by political appointees and senior officials are permanently valuable and will one day be sent to the National Archives to become a part of our nation’s history. 

Managing records and information starts with understanding what are federal records

Federal records consist of all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a federal agency under federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business. 

Federal records contain evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the United States Government or because of the informational value of data in the records.

Federal records can be created in many different formats, not just paper documents. Your records include email and any other type of electronic messages (such as chats, texts, direct messages), presentations, office documents, photographs, calendars, and other electronic files.

Often during transitions, agency web records and social media records are updated to support the new agency leadership. Websites and social media accounts likely contain federal records and must be managed according to federal records management policy.




When entering federal service, it is important to lay the foundation for good records and information management 

  • Keep personal business out of agency-administered systems and accounts – try not to use your official phone or email account for personal business.
  • Keep agency business out of personal systems and accounts – try not to use your personal phone and email account for official business.
  • Be aware that there is no expectation of privacy in agency systems or accounts.
  • Be aware that federal records are government property.

While working in federal service, records management should be routinely incorporated into your daily activities and work processes

  • Talk to the experts in your agency—the senior agency official for records management (SAORM) and the agency records officer (ARO). The SAORM is responsible for strategic planning and oversight of an agency’s records management program, and the ARO is responsible for operations and implementation, including how records schedules are used in your agency. These experts will help you comply with federal records management policies.
  • If you create or receive a work-related text, chat, email, or other electronic message in a personal or nonofficial messaging account, the Federal Records Act requires that you either include your official account on the “cc” line of any message you send or forward a complete copy to your official account within 20 days. (44 U.S.C. Chapter 2911)
  • When you use social media accounts for official agency business, use agency-controlled accounts to ensure your posts can meet any records management requirements.

When leaving federal service, you have specific recordkeeping responsibilities

  • Complete exit briefings on records management with your records management staff, IT liaisons, or general counsel.
  • Ensure federal records and information are available to your successor.
  • Ensure your records are retained or disposed of according to applicable records schedules and agency policies. 
  • Do not remove federal records and information when leaving office.


As a political appointee, you may have unique records that must be appropriately identified and captured as you leave federal service, such as:

  • Email or electronic messaging records captured under the Capstone approach;
  • Records of any internal and external advisory boards, committees, or councils in which you participated; and
  • Reports to Congress and/or the President, speeches, testimonies, or major correspondence.


Federal employees cannot take records with them when leaving federal service, but they may be able to take copies of federal records as well as their personal materials. Generally, any copies of federal records must not contain classified or sensitive information and must be completely releasable to the public. Setting up good practices at the start of your public career will make it much easier to manage federal records at the end of your service.


In limited situations, political appointees can be granted access to federal records after leaving office. Before leaving federal service, you may want to consult with your General Counsel and Agency Records Officer to understand how records access would be granted in the future. Information about access to classified records is available at Sec. 4.4. Access by Historical Researchers and Certain Former Government Personnel.

What records management policies apply to use of social media

Political appointees may be actively engaged in the use of social media in their agencies. Federal records management guidance applies to social media accounts created or used for official agency business. 


When social media accounts are used for official business they must stay under the control of the agency. When an employee uses a personal social media account to communicate with the public on behalf of the agency, the account may become the property of the agency, and its contents are considered federal records. Any social media accounts used by the employee in their personal life is not considered to be a federal record. 


Many social media applications also have direct messaging features, which are covered by NARA’s guidance on electronic messaging and the statutory requirement to copy or forward messages sent in an unofficial messaging application to an official one within 20 days.


NARA provides guidance to agencies on how to manage their social media records in NARA Bulletin 2014-02. At a minimum, agency responsibilities include the ability to identify and retrieve federal records that are created and maintained on social media. Agencies should be aware that a social media provider could discontinue their service or delete information from an agency's account. Additionally, agencies may stop using a social media platform at any time. In either situation, the agency is not relieved of its records management and preservation obligations.


Note: Presidential records created under the Presidential Records Act (PRA). Presidential records are managed separately from federal records.


Updated: April 17, 2024

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