New way to get archives

The policy history of the U.S. government is preserved in 21 million boxes

in 16 storage facilities scattered across the country. Hundreds of millions

of pages document decades of activity by dozens of federal agencies. Agencies

refer back to these old records about 10 million times a year.

Now, the Internet is making the records a bit easier to retrieve. The

National Archives and Records Administration has activated an information-

processing system that permits agencies to request old records via the Internet.

The Centers Information Processing System (CIPS) is expected to almost entirely

replace requests sent to the 16 NARA Records Centers via modem, fax or mail.

The records, which are mostly paper documents, must still be shipped

back to the requesting agencies. Nevertheless, the new system represents

an improvement in service, said David Weinberg, Records Center program manager.

It is faster than the mail and easier than preparing a fax. Also, most offices

have abandoned modems in favor of desktop Web access, he said.

Old records remain essential to many of the day-to-day operations of

federal agencies. Decades-old veterans' records are needed to apply for

benefits, and old IRS records may be necessary to resolve tax disputes.

"Some may be two or three years old; others may be 60 years old," Weinberg

said. All reside at the Archives.

The CIPS record requesting system is not available to the public, and

it requires a secure log-on and password to be used by authorized government

employees, he said.

The Archives is planning to unveil a more advanced automated records

system called the Target System in about two years, Weinberg said. It is

designed to enable authorized users to locate records by conducting keyword

searches, process records for long-term storage at Archives records centers

and perform electronic billing for Archives services.

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