Press/Journalists
Press Release
December 28, 1999
Statement by the National Archives and Records Administration Concerning Disposition of Electronic Copies of Federal Records

The Archivist of the United States took steps yesterday to clarify disposition authorities for electronic copies of Federal records. He issued NARA Bulletin 2000-02, which addresses electronic copies created using word-processing or electronic mail software. The Bulletin clarifies that agencies may not dispose of electronic copies of unscheduled records. It states that electronic copies of unscheduled records must be scheduled together with the recordkeeping copies, as provided for in NARA Bulletin 99-05.

In addition, Bulletin 2000-02 states that agencies may dispose of electronic copies of scheduled records only after a recordkeeping copy has been produced and filed in an electronic, paper, or microform recordkeeping system. The new Bulletin 2000-02 also suspends NARA Bulletin 99-04, which had previously covered the disposition of these electronic copies. NARA is in the midst of a comprehensive review of the policies and processes for the scheduling and appraising of Federal records. This review may result in significant changes in the way that agencies schedule their records in the future. When this scheduling and appraisal review is completed in FY 2001, NARA will evaluate whether Bulletin 99-04 should be revised or replaced with an alternative scheduling procedure and will issue further guidance.

The new Bulletin also states that NARA believes there may be better alternatives to GRS 20, items 13 and 14, for disposition authority for the disposal of program records. NARA expects to develop those alternatives as part of a comprehensive review of the policies and procedures for scheduling and appraisal of records in all formats. At the completion of the scheduling and appraisal review, NARA will issue new guidance.

Several factors led to the decision to issue NARA Bulletin 2000-02:

  • GRS 20 items 13 and 14 have been the subject of litigation since 1996. On August 6, 1999, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously upheld GRS 20. NARA believes that there may be better alternatives to GRS 20 for disposition authority for electronic copies of program records, and that the best way to address this issue is with a comprehensive review of the policies and procedures for scheduling and appraisal of records in all formats. The Court decision provides the Government time to include electronic copies in this overall review.

  • Agency resources that would be expended to develop and submit schedules under Bulletin 99-04 are needed to schedule previously unscheduled records and to plan for the implementation of electronic recordkeeping. The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA), which takes effect in FY 2004, provides a strong impetus for agencies to develop the capability of managing records electronically for their full legal retention period. Under the GPEA (Pub. L. 105-277), by October 2003, agencies must give persons and entities that are required to maintain, submit, or disclose information to the Federal Government the option of doing so electronically when practicable as a substitute for paper, and to use electronic authentication (electronic signature) methods to verify the identity of the sender and the integrity of electronic content.
NARA is also continuing progress in other areas to ensure that electronic records are managed properly and that records needed to document rights, assess accountability, and understand the national experience are preserved and accessible:

  • The Fast Track Guidance Development Project, established to identify "best practices" for use by agencies to meet urgent needs concerning electronic records issues, recently completed its first five products. These high-level documents and checklists are posted on the NARA web site at http://www.archives.gov/records_management/policy_and_guidance/fast_track.html.

  • The research and development projects NARA is conducting in partnership with the Department of Defense, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and others show promise in providing solutions to long-term preservation of and access to electronic records. Further information on the San Diego Supercomputer Center project is posted at http://www.sdsc.edu/NARA/Publications.html.

  • NARA's Targeted Assistance Program is providing agencies with direct records management assistance, much of which is in the area of electronic records. With funds appropriated in FY 1999, NARA has added 13 records management staff positions, which were filled with senior records analysts experienced in all records media, including electronic records. In addition to working with agencies' headquarters in Washington, these professionals were deployed in FY 1999 to help agencies' field offices in Boston, Seattle, and Fort Worth. FY 2000 appropriations provide 17 additional staff positions for expanding this assistance nationwide. In the future records management assistance will be extended further so that every NARA region will have Targeted Assistance staff. These additional employees will help Federal agencies manage Government records in all formats in accordance with NARA recordkeeping requirements.

  • NARA also has been participating in the Federal interagency group on public key infrastructure issues (PKI) and will begin issuing guidance on records management issues related to the implementation of the GPEA in April 2000.
A copy of NARA Bulletin 2000-02 is posted on NARA's web site at http://www.archives.gov/records_management/policy_and_guidance/bulletin_2000_02.html. A copy of Bulletin 99-05 is posted on the NARA web site at http://www.archives.gov/records_management/policy_and_guidance/bulletin_99_05.html.

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

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