GSA develops sked for records

The General Services Administration is developing a new schedule program that would offer records management and archival services to federal agencies.

Agencies could use the schedule to outsource the tracking, maintenance and storage of both paper and electronic records, said Patricia Miller, director of customer service with the GSA Federal Supply Service's Marketing and Business Division. Miller said she had the idea for the program after reading about contracts that the Immigration and Naturalization Service awarded recently to keep track of its records on immigrants.

Miller said the program would be part of an existing GSA document management services schedule, which includes photocopying equipment and the conversion of paper documents to electronic form.

"I can envision an agency needing someone else to help [it] maintain [agency] files and records, and on different types of media," Miller said. "We could fulfill the complete document management solution for all of our customers."

If schedule contracts for records management were available, those contracts could provide yet another tool for agencies struggling to maintain and preserve their electronic files. J. Timothy Sprehe, a consultant who specializes in electronic-records issues, said some agencies have hired contractors to do portions of their records management work "for some years."

The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has spent $34.8 million since 1995 on a five-year contract with Armstrong Data Services, Vienna, Va., to run its records centers throughout the country. Armstrong Data converts legal documents to electronic form so that agency lawyers working on the same case from different offices can use the documents simultaneously, said Steve Homoki, senior vice president with the company.

"There's no question that agencies will use contractors when they get around to doing electronic records management," Sprehe said. "I just see [the proposed schedule] as GSA saying, 'Here's some more business we can get, so let's get it.' "

Mary Ann Wallace, director of the Energy Department's Information, Records and Resource Management Group, said DOE contracts out "almost all aspects of records management" and would "welcome" a GSA schedule. "We have had a little bit of money to do something from a departmentwide standpoint, and we have been frustrated with there being no vehicle we could ride," she said.

Wallace said that as DOE develops plans for electronic recordkeeping, officials would look to the GSA schedule for consulting services and for help developing document management and recordkeeping systems.

Meeting the Standards

Some agency officials and vendors said that if GSA creates a schedule, GSA would need to ensure that any electronic recordkeeping products offered meet emerging federal government standards.

Burt Newlin, who manages electronic records policy for the Defense Department, said commercial vendors' records management products have not initially conformed to the functional requirements DOD has established to ensure its documents are maintained according to federal records laws.

Merrill Pierce, director of knowledge management products and services with Educom Business Solutions Inc., said even if agencies outsource their records management activities, the vendors they hire would have to use software that meets federal standards to do the work. Educom plans to have its electronic recordkeeping software tested by DOD this fall.

Miller said she was not familiar with the DOD records management requirements, which the National Archives and Records Administration is expected to endorse for the government, with revisions. Also, FSS includes records management services as part of its IT services schedule, with which Miller said she would see about coordinating. She said she hopes to have contracts in place by September.

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