Press/Journalists
Press Release
July 21, 1998
Public Comments Sought on Electronic Records Report by National Archives and Records Administration

Washington, DC -- With a request for public comment, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today published in the Federal Register the draft report of its interagency Electronic Records Work Group.

"This is the product of more than seven months of hard work," Archivist of the United States John Carlin declared. "I urge everyone concerned with the management, preservation, and disposition of electronic records to read the report and help us with constructive feedback. The Work Group needs your help and so do I as I review the work and make decisions on how to proceed."

Archivist Carlin established the Electronic Records Work Group in November 1997 to review issues relating to the creation, maintenance, and disposition of certain types of electronic information, focusing on General Records Schedule 20. GRS-20 was developed to provide guidelines to federal agencies on the disposition of electronic-mail and word-processing records once they had been copied to a paper, microfilm, or electronic recordkeeping system for management and retention. In a subsequent court opinion, a Federal district judge declared that portions of GRS-20 reached beyond the authority of the Archivist under the Federal Records Act, and declared GRS-20 "null and void." The decision is being appealed by the government on the authority issue, but Mr. Carlin determined that records disposition practices could be improved to be sure that programmatic records are protected, that schedules for the disposition of records are not medium-oriented, and that records schedules are devised so that Federal agencies can and will use them. Mr. Carlin charged the work group to do the following:

  • review the current version of GRS 20;
  • identify appropriate areas for revisions;
  • explore other approaches for authorizing disposition of electronic records;
  • identify methods and techniques that are available with current technology to manage electronic records properly and provide ready access to essential evidence; and,
  • recommend practical and implementable solutions for the disposition of electronic records.

The first recommendation of the Work Group is that agencies must schedule their program and unique administrative records in all formats. The Work Group proposes guidance that NARA should issue on the revision of existing records disposition schedules to provide disposition authority for records created using office automation applications, and the Work Group outlines what agencies must do to schedule these records and how NARA will provide the public the opportunity to submit comments on the schedules as required by law.

The second Work Group recommendation is that NARA modify all the general records schedules to authorize the destruction of copies of certain administrative records that are not needed for recordkeeping purposes after a recordkeeping copy has been produced.

The Work Groupís third recommendation proposes a new general records schedule to provide disposition authorities for certain specified temporary records specifically related to systems management and operations. The new GRS would not cover temporary records documenting development and management of agency systems for the agencyís mission-related functions.

Proposed recommendations on implementation are spelled out in appendices to the draft report. The Work Group will consider comments received from the public in producing the final report, which will be submitted to the Archivist in September. The draft report published in the Federal Register has been modified slightly from the June 15 version posted on the NARA GRS 20 web page at http://www.archives.gov/records_management/policy_and_guidance/electronic_records_work_group.html, where much material about the Work Groupís deliberations can be found. The Work Group will consider comments received from the public in producing the final report.

Comments on the draft report should be sent to the Work Group by August 20, 1998. They may be sent electronically to a special e-mail address: grs20@nara.gov. Lengthy attachments should be sent in ASCII, WordPerfect 5.1/5.2, or MS Word 6.0 format. Persons who do not have access to e-mail may send comments by regular mail to the Electronic Records Work Group (NPOL), Room 4100, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, or fax them to 301-837-0319.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.

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