NASA IG: Manage official e-mail messages better

NASA employees are not properly managing their official e-mail records due to unfinished guidance and a lack of training, according to an inspector general's report.

Auditors said that NASA’s records management policies lacked details about how to determine what e-mail messages are worth retaining and cited out-of-date rules and schedules. Although the agency updated its guidance, it has yet to be finalized.

The oversight office also found that 45 percent of officials at the agency were unaware that they had to archive such messages and also did not know how to do it. Auditors cited a lack of agencywide training as the cause.

Records officers also didn’t perform regular records management reviews to ensure compliance with the National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984.

The act requires agencies to develop and implement a program to manage all of their electronic media records.

“NASA’s noncompliance with NARA regulations and NASA’s requirements for records management increases the risk of permanent loss of institutional memory, records containing essential transactions that protect the legal and financial rights of the government [and] records permitting NASA to be responsive to Congress and oversight agencies,” the assistant inspector general for auditing wrote in the Feb. 28 report. The office conducted the investigation from June 2007 to January 2008.

The report also states that NASA needs to rectify these problems as it migrates to a single agencywide e-mail system — called the NASA Operational Messaging and Directory  — at the end of this year. NASA began implementing NOMAD in November.

The NARA Act does not require agencies to maintain an electronic recordkeeping system. To maintain compliance, NASA will buy software to meet Defense Department standards of recordkeeping. The software will allow NASA to automatically archive messages of senior officials to easily transfer them to NARA.

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