December 23, 1998
Electronic Records Work Progresses at National Archives and Records Administration
College Park, MD. . . The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) took additional steps today to help agencies of the Federal Government manage growing quantities of electronic records. Archivist of the United States John Carlin signed "GRS Transmittal 8" to issue revised General Records Schedules 1 through 18, plus 21, and 23. General records schedules provide mandatory disposition instructions for certain temporary administrative records common to multiple agencies of the Federal Government. For those administrative records covered in the general records schedules, changes include expanding the coverage to records in all media, authorizing the deletion of electronic copies of records that are created on e-mail and word-processing systems and used solely to produce the record keeping copy, and adding several new items. The revised general records schedules also replace indefinite retention periods (e.g.,"destroy when no longer needed") with specific periods. Additionally, "GRS Transmittal 8" explains that NARA is developing a new general records schedule for information-technology records.
However, the revised General Records Schedules cover only a portion of the records of the Federal Government — records of certain more routine administrative functions common to many agencies. Agencies are still required to develop retention and disposition schedules for the word processing and electronic mail records created as part of their program activities, and for records of those administrative functions not covered in the General Records Schedules. For scheduling these records, NARA has produced a draft bulletin containing proposed guidance to agencies. In conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget, NARA is evaluating agency comment on that bulletin.
The draft bulletin and the GRS revisions replace GRS-20, which had permitted agencies to delete certain electronic records after copying them to a record keeping system, but has been declared null and void by a Federal court. Last week, NARA reported on its development of alternatives to GRS-20 in a status conference with the court, and NARA will provide another status report to the court by the end of March 1999.
NARA developed its alternatives to GRS-20 with the help of an interagency Electronic Records Work Group that Archivist Carlin created for the purpose. One of the group's recommendations was to create a second work group to deal with agencies' needs for electronic records guidance more broadly. In the new year, Mr. Carlin will establish such a group, to be composed of experienced individuals from NARA's staff and the staffs of other Federal agencies, supported by consultants with expertise in records management and electronic records.
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