NGA falls short on archiving hard copy maps, inspectors say

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is behind on archiving its hard copy maps and has many gaps in official records management, according to an inspection report from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

For example, the NGA has not archived any of its hard copy maps since 1996 and now holds a potential treasure trove of historic documents that includes Colin Powell’s briefing map and captured Nazi maps, stated the inspection report released July 22.

The targeted inspection was one of several that are performed by the archives agency each year on agencies exhibiting weaknesses in their archiving activities. In NGA’s case, the report was triggered by the absence of archiving activity for hard copy maps from 1996 to 2011.


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“This inspection continues our annual efforts to conduct targeted inspections focused on specific aspects of an agency's records management program,” Paul Wester Jr., wrote chief records officer with the archives.

The NGA has gone through several reorganizations in recent years, and was previously known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency starting in 1996 when it consolidated the Defense Mapping Agency and several other agencies. It was restructured as the NGA in 2003.

In recent years, the NGA has shown some improvement in its self-assessment score for records management, rising from 42 out of 100 in 2009 to 60 out of 100 in 2010. Those scores reflected high risk in 2009, and moderate risk in 2010, the report states.

Inspectors noted other signs of progress that included NGA issuing a records management directive and beginning appointments of information officers through the agency.

Despite those improvements, the NGA’s archiving of official maps has numerous inadequacies, the report concluded.

“The NGA records management program, however, does have shortcomings that need to be rectified to ensure the agency’s compliance with federal records management laws and regulations,” the report states.

The problems include limited awareness among staff of the need to manage records, poor implementation track records and “an overall lack of established records management processes that ensure the proper disposition of records,” the report concluded.

Federal inspectors made 19 recommendations for changes, including establishing an opportunity for archiving officials to examine, catalog and archive the historic maps.

The archives agency also wants NGA to develop a complete inventory of materials that were lost in a 1993 flood and to make improvements in communications about maps that are labeled “limited distribution.”

The archives agency said it intends to review how NGA is handling electronic mapping products in fiscal 2012.

NGA officials cooperated in the inspection report and are developing an action plan for the recommendations, the report states.

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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