NARA proposes to rewrite record regulations

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has proposed a new version of regulations for how agencies should handle federal records management. The new requirements would be more easily understood than the current regulations, according to NARA.

NARA said the proposed rules represent the agency’s “goals, strategies and tactics for redesigning federal records management to serve agencies in the 21st century, ” in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register Aug. 4.

“I think the biggest thing is that we have rewritten them in plain language…to make it easier for agencies to find the specific regulation piece that they are looking for,” said Nancy Allard, a senior policy specialist with NARA.

Allard said the new regulations would also define electronic records management in broader terms, making it clear that all requirements also apply to electronic records. In addition, she said the new version of regulations is written in more current terminology.

The proposed rule would provide guidance for NARA inspections of agency records management practices. The agency plans to undertake inspections when an agency fails to address records management risks or specific problems, the NPRM said.

In a June report, the Government Accountability Office criticized the agency’s reluctance to use inspections as an oversight tool, saying NARA has not conducted an agency inspection since 2000.

Allard said NARA was in the process of creating a plan to address the GAO's  concerns and the proposed regulations would make inspections more focused.

“What we are looking at is how we can do a combination of more effective agency self-assessment and then planned targeting for a specific issue and what will invoke an inspection,” she said. “What is in the [proposed] regulation is the guts of what we will do when we do an inspection.”

The new proposed rules would also:

•Change the regulations regarding NARA’s inspections of agency management programs.

•Change the conditions under which non-record materials can be taken from agencies by a departing employee.

•Clarify how records should be kept when a contractor operates a program for an agency.

• Require agencies to receive NARA’s permission before loaning original permanent or unscheduled records to other federal agencies.

•Require agencies to notify NARA when records that could threaten health, life or property are identified as missing.

• Address how NARA and agencies should handle credible allegations of unlawful or accidental removal, defacing, alteration or destruction of records.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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