White House attention nudges e-archive toward completion by September 2011

Electronic Records Archives project was on OMB list of at-risk federal IT programs

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) expects to put its $995 million electronic archive development on a schedule for completion by September 2011, following recent White House attention to the program, according to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.

The agency began developing and testing the Electronic Records Archive program in 2005 to upload and store trillions of official electronic documents, including presidential e-mail messages.

The Office of Management and Budget included the electronic archives development program as one of 26 high-priority information technology programs at risk of cost or schedule overruns or failure to meet requirements. Managers of those 26 IT programs now are now consulting regularly with OMB to draw up improvement plans and audit progress.

NARA is preparing a program improvement plan for the electronic archive that will call for completion of development by September 2011 and will create a metric to measure the volume of presidential, federal, and congressional records in the system, Ferriero wrote in a statement dated Aug. 23 and published on NARA’s Web site.

Although the archive is still under development, it has been operational since 2008 and it currently holds 82 terabytes of records, mostly presidential records. From January to June 2010, the archive was being used by four federal agencies. Despite this progress, Ferriero wrote that he and Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra share a concern that federal agencies are not fully using it.

Related stories:

Electronic Records Archives needs more oversight, auditors say

NARA digs out of digital avalanche

"I share the CIO's concern that a relatively small number of federal agencies are currently using the system," Ferriero wrote.

By mid-2011, the electronic archive system will be ready for use by all agencies and by the summer of 2012, it will be required for all federal agencies to transfer their permanent electronic records to the national archives, Ferriero added.

“I am therefore pleased that the CIO [Kundra] is giving this project his priority attention with the aim of creating a sense of urgency for getting all federal agencies to begin using the Electronic Records Archive. Indeed, the Electronic Records Archive is at risk if we build it and agencies don’t use it,” Ferriero wrote.

In June, the Government Accountability Office recommended that NARA improve oversight and planning of the project.

“Addressing these weaknesses is becoming even more critical as the projected completion of the project approaches,” David Powner, GAO’s director of information technology and management issues, wrote in a report then.

Ferriero, in a response to a draft copy of the GAO report, wrote that although the project had cost overruns and delays in its initial stage, management oversight has strengthened since then.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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