Records maintenance rule loses paper vs. digital distinction

The National Archives and Records Administration has announced today a final rule that will make new agency recordkeeping schedules and possibly some preexisting schedules media neutral.

Starting Dec. 17, agencies will submit schedules that apply to records regardless of their media, unless otherwise stipulated. Although agencies were allowed to submit media-neutral schedules previously, most programs were meant for paper-based records. Agencies had been required to present new timetables when they converted analog record systems to electronic ones.

Agencies submit schedules to NARA for its approval. The schedules detail how they plan to handle and preserve records.

The new regulation will also accompany modifications to General Records Schedule 20, which governs how agencies can dispose of electronic records and their related hard copies.

NARA first proposed making the schedules media neutral in November 2004. The agency said that in issuing the final rule it has taken comments from federal agencies, the private sector and watchdog groups into account.

The comments from agencies were overwhelmingly positive; it’s something they have sought for a while, said Lawrence Brewer, director at NARA's Life Cycle Management Division, which oversaw the rule’s development.

“We believe it’s a significant step in helping agencies meet their responsibilities in keeping their electronic records to meet the requirements of the E-Government Act of 2002,” he said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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