Records Management

NARA: More agencies than expected missed 2016 email deadline

Shutterstock image: digital record management. 

Early self-reporting suggests the National Archives and Records Administration overestimated how many agencies would hit a governmentwide 2016 email management goal.

About 81 percent of agencies hit the deadline to manage email records in electronic format by the end of the next year. Previously, the agency had anticipated that 92 percent of agencies would meet the mark, called for in an executive memorandum dating back to 2012.

The details lag behind the deadline because of the wait to tally self-reporting surveys from agencies. Laurence Brewer, the federal chief records officer, told FCW that 60 to 70 percent of the agency responses are now in, and the new estimate of 81 percent compliance is based on that data.

Brewer also said that 89 percent of agencies report low to moderate levels of risk associated with their email records management practices.

"The bottom line is agencies are telling us that they are managing their email electronically, but there are still areas for improvement," Brewer said.

He characterized the efforts as an ongoing process with the goal of collaborating with agencies to work through their issues and improve their records management, rather than knocking or punishing agencies for missing a deadline.

That said, Brewer indicated that he was "a little skeptical" of agency self-reporting data that projects 95 percent of agencies will hit a 2019 deadline to electronically manage all permanent electronic records -- from tweets, to videos to documents -- in electronic formats.

"We saw this with e-mail," he said, adding that, although NARA engages in agency oversight, self-reporting can lead to overestimations. "You're successful until you're not."

Brewer also cautioned agencies against putting off preparations because 2019 feels distant now.

"You will not be successful if you worry about the records on the back end of the process," he said.

Brewer also noted that the "environment has changed" around records management. Records management has risen as a priority across government that is only "going to continue," even if looming budget cuts further stretch agencies' resources.

"We know the budget situation is going to be a challenge for all of us," he said.

Peter Winn, the Justice Department's acting chief privacy and civil liberties officer, added that stretched resources accentuate the need for greater collaboration within agencies to share expertise and determine priorities.

"Our resources are really, really stretched," he said. "And the information technology professionals are the ones who are going to get us out of this mess."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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