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"RM and IT: Building the Digital Future," NARA's 19th Annual Records Administration Conference (RACO 2007)

Presentation of the Archivist Achievement Awards by Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein, May 8, 2007

Good afternoon, I hope you are enjoying today’s program.

The Archivist Achievement Awards recognize outstanding achievements in records management that have made a difference within agencies and that are models from which we can all learn. We all know that to effectively manage, preserve, and provide appropriate access to the records of our modern democracy is complex, far too complex for one agency, even the National Archives and Records Administration, or for dedicated Federal records managers, to accomplish alone. We need to work together to maximize resources and to learn from one another’s experiences. The common thread among this year’s award recipients is the determination of records managers to build programs that are integrated into their agencies’ business processes.

Turning to the business at hand, we have five award recipients this year.

I don’t know if an Archivist Achievement Award has ever been given to the same agency two years in a row, but the records management success of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency has persuaded us to set this precedent. Last year we recognized DTRA for revitalizing a weak records management program and for successfully completing a complicated move.

The agency has continued to build its records management program and now requires records management training for all employees. Their program has also made more information and tools available online.

A significant initiative this year was the new program of staff assistance visits led by the Inspector General. These visits review many agency activities, including those of the records management staff. The IG plans to visit each office, in Washington and locations around the country and the world, every three years.

The emphasis of the records management checklist is on "assistance." the unit receives the checklist in advance and is encouraged to work with the records management staff to resolve any compliance issues before or during the visit. The direct benefit is compliance with records management policy and procedures; the indirect benefit is greater awareness of records management.

Accepting the award for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is Mr. Richard Stitt, Chief of the Information Support Branch.

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The single most important set of records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are the alien records, known as the A-files. An A-file documents the history of an individual’s interactions with Homeland Security and its predecessor under the Immigration and Nationality Act and other regulations.

These files contain a good portion of the story of immigration to the United States and a wealth of genealogical information. They also play a critical role in protecting our nation’s borders. The A-files are used by Federal, state, and local benefit-granting agencies to determine eligibility for benefits such as Social Security, drivers’ licenses, and medical treatment.

The USCIS maintains over 100 million paper A-files and tracks their movement in a national file tracking system. The events of September 11, 2001, made the ability to gain immediate access to the files by multiple offices at the same time a very high priority. The agency Records Division, under the leadership of Mr. Dominick Gentile, worked with stakeholder offices and the CIOs in DHS to understand each program’s critical business needs and developed processes for imaging, indexing, validating, and preserving the record that met those needs. The agency has kept NARA continuously involved in its planning, so that these important records of long-term political and social value will be appropriately preserved and available.

Accepting the award today for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the Chief of the Records Division and the force behind the A-file project, Mr. Dominick Gentile.

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Several years ago, the Department of the Navy began to build a single system that would provide secure information management and records preservation for Navy organizations around the globe. A system known as the Navy Enterprise Records Management Solution or ERMS, the framework has now been fielded extensively and is used by 30 Navy echelons in their business processes to support such things as FOIA, case management, policy and procedures issuance, congressional correspondence, and security.

The records management application is configured for each major organization and provides solutions for records identification, capture, maintenance, and disposition. The Navy supports the system with training, a monthly records management conference call, a newsletter, and an annual conference.

The Department of the Navy Records Office had the vision and provided the Navy organizations with powerful tools for records management. But was the system being used, and, was it working? The answer is yes! The Office of the Naval Inspector said that the Navy ERMS enabled fundamental changes in records maintenance practices and allowed collaborative records access, maintenance and review across their offices worldwide. The Navy Criminal Investigative Services has "proven" the system by utilizing it for the total management of records through their lifecycle, up to and including disposition.

Accepting the award today, I am pleased to introduce Mr. John la Raia, Assistant for Administration to the Undersecretary of the Navy.

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The Small Business Administration’s records management office has made the case that SBA records are valuable assets of the Federal Government and that effective records management is the tool for managing and protecting them. To successfully meet the needs of both government and the public, SBA is adapting and expanding its services as the shift to e-Government continues. At the same time, the agency is aggressively pursuing solutions to challenges posed by creating, maintaining and preserving their business information in an electronic format.

The SBA records management staff works closely with the agency's IT staff and program offices as information systems are being developed to ensure that records management requirements are identified in the early stages of development. In 2006, SBA identified and scheduled over 40 electronic information systems that maintain Federal records. They have done this in a way that allows for transfer of the data to NARA, so that sustained access to SBA’s history can be accessed by researchers into the future. In fact, NARA accepted its first transfer of permanent electronic records from SBA’s loan accounting system this year.

Accepting the award for the Small Business Administration is Ms. Jacqueline White, the agency’s records officer.

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The Government Accountability Office has been a frequent and willing partner with NARA as we tested new approaches to records management as part of our records management initiatives. GAO was one of the pilot agencies for flexible scheduling and simplified retention schedules. GAO realized that the concept of simplified retention schedules supported its plans to develop and implement an enterprise-wide electronic records management system based on the simplified schedules.

The GAO records program and the Electronic Records Management System (ERMS) initiative is integrated with the agency’s electronic business process initiatives, including electronic case files, electronic publication, and dissemination of GAO products, and document digitization. It incorporates DOD requirements plus two agency-specific requirements: 1) the system must be easy to use, and 2) using the system should impose no additional burden on GAO staff.

The underlying premise of GAO’s Electronic Records Management System is to integrate records management into GAO’s critical business processes rather than treating records management as a stand-alone business activity. The ERMS is a success, and its use has been mandated by the Comptroller General of GAO.

We are pleased to have with us today to accept the awards Ms. Catherine Teti, Managing Director/Knowledge Services at GAO.

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This year, NARA received 18 nominations for Archivist Achievement Awards. That may be the largest number of nominations since NARA began the awards in 1999. It is a testament to the dedication and innovation that each of you bring to your agencies. I want to congratulate all of the nominees and all of you here today for the amazing work you do. Thank you.

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