Electronic archiving enforcement lacking

Redesign of Federal Records Management

Although the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress are striving to develop guidance about electronic archiving, no common practices and policies are being enforced within government, experts said last week.

One of the most pervasive concerns in the archiving world is that a lack of tools and standards has already caused millions of electronic records and historical documents to be lost through technical obsolescence.

New standards such as PDF-Archive and JPEG 2000, as well as efforts to use Extensible Markup Language and other existing standards, should be able to help in coming years, said Stephen Levenson, records policy officer for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. He was speaking at a Feb. 26 forum sponsored by Adobe Systems Inc.

But the lack of true governmentwide guidance and enforcement power for how agencies should implement those and other standards "has been a concern," Catherine Teti, managing director for knowledge services at the General Accounting Office, said at the forum.

NARA issued draft guidance in the past year defining a new records management and archiving approach, but the agency must also take a more active role in making sure that all agencies adopt it, Rick Barry, an electronic records consultant, told the National Academies' Committee on Digital Archiving and NARA on Feb. 27.

NARA officials may not have the skills or power to fully enforce the guidance, Barry said. He suggested that officials there look at necessary legislative changes or, to address short-term needs, work with the White House to develop an executive order.

However, working through existing power—such as the budget development process at the Office of Management and Budget—may be the fastest and most effective way to ensure that agencies make electronic records part of their daily and long-term management processes, said one federal official who asked not to be named.

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