NARA e-records budget balloons

Fiscal 2002 budget

The National Archives and Records Administration wants to spend $20 million on its electronic records archive in 2002, more than 20 times the amount budgeted for this year. The money is included in the Archives' budget request sent to Congress April 9.

The electronic archive is a digital records storage system being designed so that NARA can store electronic records in digital form that will be readable on computers even hundreds of years in the future.

A small-scale model of the archive is scheduled to be operational in 2004 or 2005. An operational electronic archive is expected to cost $130 million.

The electronic archive represents a leap forward in digital storage technology. Using a process called "persistent object preservation," the archive would preserve documents, photos, maps, spreadsheets or other digital records in digital form but independent of the formats that were used to create them.

"The goal is to preserve digital information for at least 400 years," say researchers from the San Diego Supercomputer Center, the research center that has provided much of the brainpower behind the project.

Of the $20 million, $5.1 million is earmarked for further research and engineering, according to Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper. Another $3.9 million is to be used developing a blueprint for the electronic archive, she said.

Program management is budgeted to consume $4.5 million and the remaining $6.4 million is to be used to extend the life of current Archives computer systems, Cooper said.

In addition to the big boost in spending on the electronic archive, the 2002 budget includes a request for $1.1 million to preserve the millions of electronic records created by the Clinton administration. Most of the records are to be stored in the Clinton presidential library.

The Archives is seeking almost $5 million to advance the shift from paper to electronic transactions through greater use of online forms, including online order forms that the public can use to order copies of records and merchandise.

The 2002 budget request also includes $1.4 million to buy an electronic editing ad publishing system for the Federal Register.

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