Records Management

NARA's plan to help government pivot to digital

Shutterstock image: digital record overlay. 

The National Archives and Records Administration has new plans to help agencies stay on track with the shift to all-digital records management.

Federal Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer said he plans to issue a checklist and various guidances that will help usher agencies into the electronic age.

In August, NARA released its draft strategic plan outlining aggressive goals for achieving a fully electronic archive by the end of 2022. Brewer said NARA will submit that plan to the Office of Management and Budget for review "later this month."

Speaking at a Sept. 6 930gov conference, Brewer said NARA needs to issue success criteria to support the 2019 deadline to manage electronic records in their native formats, and added that guidance is coming by the end of 2017.

“That is a key priority right now,” he said.

Brewer said NARA also plans to refresh its guidance for the management of web records and digitization and metadata efforts in order to keep agencies from falling behind on records management. The current web records management guidance is dated January 2005. Brewer said NARA will work on updating it in the fall and early next year.

Currently, the Electronic Records Archive cannot handle the volume of electronic records that will be necessary as NARA accepts more and more digital records.

“We’re not necessarily fixing ERA as we are creating an ERA 2.0 ... focusing on processing and preservation and being able to ingest larger volumes of electronic records,” said Brewer.

But challenges stand in the way of hitting the goals laid out in NARA's draft strategic plan.

Topping the list of major challenges facing the broader records management community’s digitization efforts, Brewer said, are resources -- money and people -- and technology.

"These are the two areas where we really need the support of senior agency officials… to make the resources available, to make the decisions to get the tools and technologies we need to have so we can manage those records effectively," he said.

Brewer added that NARA is focused on coordinating priorities within the records management community to optimize the use of these limited resources.

To that end, NARA hopes to issue “very soon... a new bulletin that better defines the roles and responsibilities of senior record management,” said Brewer. "We hope to use this bulletin as a way to better connect and bridge the relationships between the [senior agency officials for records management] and records officers."

Brewer added that all of these efforts require NARA to continue its outreach to CIOs and CTOs, as well as to coordinate with OMB and congressional committees “to make sure we can get support for all of us doing records management at agencies.”

"If we are lucky we may realize that vision where records management is as essential to every agencies' mission as the mission itself," he said. "I know we’ll never get there, but it's a nice thought to have in mind, and that’s something we're going to continue to strive for.

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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