NARA earns accolades from GAO

The National Archives and Records Administration’s huge undertaking -- to save government records in any format and make them available on future hardware and software -- is moving full speed ahead, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

“The [Electronic Records Archives] program is meeting its cost, schedule, and performance objectives and has identified risks to the program’s objectives… GAO is not making any recommendations at this time because NARA has plans in place to address identified weaknesses,” the GAO report released today states.

Next month, NARA officials are expected to announce the winner of the $500 million ERA project. Teams led by Harris and Lockheed Martin are competing for that contract.

The report states that NARA officials have achieved all major milestones on or ahead of schedule. NARA officials have received three contractor deliverables that met their expectations, according to the report.

NARA officials’ self-reported risks should help them achieve goals, according to NARA and GAO officials. NARA officials are aware that they have not forecast the volume of e-records they and future generations intend to process. Therefore, NARA officials may build to the wrong size and scalability specifications. Officials do not know whether they will save e-files in their original formats or migrate the files to more easily accessible formats. Also, NARA knows it will lose more than $20 million a year if it does not award the development contract by Sept. 30, 2005.

Additionally, the report notes that the inspector general warned the ERA about inadequate security for passwords and systems configuration management. The IG also highlighted the absence of a disaster recovery plan.

The GAO report tracked progress of prior recommendations, notably staffing, enterprise architecture, information security and document review. NARA has filled two key positions but all other issues are unresolved. The enterprise architecture is incomplete, information technology shortcomings remain and a document review process has not been deployed.

In May, Archivist Allen Weinstein wrote a letter in response to a draft report of the GAO’s findings. He stated that the necessary enterprise architecture specifications will be in place by September 2005.

On security, Weinstein wrote, “We want to stress that ERA itself has a comprehensive information security plan, developed in collaboration with the National Security Agency, that has integrated contingency and disaster recovery plans as part of its requirements… addressing the general concern related to physical and logistical security weaknesses, we want to assure GAO that the completion of the specific audit action items comprising this deficiency will be resolved by Sept. 30, 2005.”

Weinstein added that NARA has a document review process that ensures comments from all reviewers are addressed and handled by quality management staff.

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