Press/Journalists
Press Release
November 21, 1997
New Steps On Electronic Records Announced by the National Archives and Records Administration

WASHINGTON, DC - Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin today announced new steps to help agencies of the Federal Government cope with the problems of evaluating and managing electronic records for internal use and public access.

As head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Mr. Carlin announced formation of an "Electronic Records Work Group" to review issues relating to the creation, maintenance, and disposition of certain types of electronic information.

In a 1995 revision of a general records schedule called GRS-20, NARA authorized agencies to dispose of the "live" versions of e-mail, word-processing documents, and other computer-generated material if first saved by copying to a paper, microform, or electronic recordkeeping system. In a recent court opinion, a Federal district judge declared that portions of GRS-20 reached beyond the authority of the Archivist under the Federal Records Act.

Apart from issues raised in the court case, Mr. Carlin said, NARAís Strategic Plan calls for a broad review of NARAís guidance to federal agencies on computer-generated records. "In recent years," Mr. Carlin explained, "agencies have turned increasingly to information technology to improve and extend government services. While NARA has issued guidance, updated its regulations, and revised GRS-20 previously, we need to ensure that NARAís policies and recommended practices regarding electronic records remain applicable, practical, and effective. Toward this end, I am establishing this special interagency work group."

The work groupís membership will combine NARA specialists and representatives of federal agencies. Additionally, the group will solicit technical assistance on specific issues from experts with practical experience in the private sector and the archives of other governments. The group will report recommendations by August 1 and then, following review, develop an action plan for implementation no later than September 30, 1998.

Specifically, Archivist Carlin is charging the work group to do five things:

  • review the current version of GRS 20;
  • identify appropriate areas for revision;
  • explore alternatives for authorizing disposition of electronic records;
  • identify methods and techniques that are available with current technology to manage and provide access to electronic records; and,
  • recommend practical solutions for the scheduling and disposition of electronic records.

NARA will solicit broad public comment on the Work Groupís recommendations from inside and outside the government. To facilitate that comment and other communication on electronic records issues, NARA has established an Internet Web page at http://www.archives.gov/records_management/policy_and_guidance/electronic_records_work_group.html. Agencies and other interested parties are asked to submit comments or questions by electronic mail to grs20@nara.gov.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or e-mail Susan Cooper at public.affairs@nara.gov.

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