Records Managers

An Overview of Three Projects Relating to the Changing Federal Recordkeeping Environment:

  • Current Recordkeeping and Records Use in the Federal Government

  • Policy Analysis of Current Records Disposition Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance and Recommended Changes

  • Analysis and Redesign of the Scheduling and Appraisal Process

January 2001

1. Introduction.

On May 6, 1999, the Archivist issued a memorandum to staff, NARA99-144, announcing an initiative to examine and change, if necessary, the policies and processes by which the retention of Federal records is determined. In that memorandum, the Archivist identified a number of issues for NARA to address as part of this initiative. As work progressed throughout the summer of 1999, it became clear that NARA needed a better understanding of how records are currently being created, maintained, used and disposed of in agencies and the role of records schedules in those practices to adequately explore the policy and process issues surrounding the scheduling of records. Such an understanding also would inform additional efforts NARA will undertake in the records management area generally, such as evaluating our educational, training and assistance programs for agencies, as well as the effectiveness of government records management regulations and guidance. This is a conceptual overview of how three projects have evolved since the May 1999 memorandum.

2. Project Context and Problem.

NARA mission and the importance of effective records management: The mission of NARA is to ensure, for the citizen and the public servant, for the President, the Congress, and the courts, ready access to essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience. As part of its statutory mission, NARA authorizes the disposition of U.S. Government records, establishes policies and procedures for managing these records, and assists Federal agencies in documenting their activities and administering records management programs. Every day, Federal officials create thousands of records. NARA helps them meet statutory requirements to:

  • Create adequate records to document Federal activities
  • Maintain records systematically
  • Identify appropriate records retention periods, including for records that they feel have sufficient historical and other value to warrant continued preservation
  • Apply authorized disposition actions.
Without effective records management, records needed to document citizens rights, actions for which Federal officials are responsible, and the historical experience of our nation will be at risk of loss, deterioration, or destruction.

Changing recordkeeping environment: The policies and process developed during the 20th century to implement statutory requirements detailed in 44 USC chapters 21, 29, 31, and 33 for determining the disposition of Federal records and currently used by the Federal Government evolved at a time when records were created in a largely paper-based environment. Other aspects of NARA's records management program also evolved in this environment. Although the Federal Records Act recognizes that records are created and maintained in a variety of media, most of the work processes developed for managing records were developed for paper records, and the treatment of additional media has been added as new technologies created records in new media. Another characteristic of the traditional recordkeeping environment was that records management processes in agencies were relatively centralized with responsibilities residing primarily with specialized records management and clerical staff charged with ensuring that record copies of records were properly filed and retained according to approved records schedules. During much of the 20th century, the records management policies and processes that evolved were appropriate because they reflected the recordkeeping environment of the time. The evolution of the modern Federal office and the transformation of work brought about by the spread of computer technology require that NARA and the Federal Government rethink how we conduct both the management and disposition of Federal records.

The reality at the beginning of the 21st century is that most records are created electronically and may be maintained in a variety of media. Records are routinely converted from one medium to another. Records exist in a variety of media and some records exist in multiple formats. Records in a particular system also may exist in hybrid form with some records being maintained in paper while related records are maintained electronically. In addition, in today's offices individual desktop users, not records management and clerical staff, bear a large responsibility for taking actions for the proper and legal retention of records. NARA needs to develop a better understanding of the current recordkeeping environment in order to evaluate policies and processes relating to determining the disposition of Federal records, as well as to evaluate other aspects of NARA's records management program. Project 1 (Current Recordkeeping and Records Use in the Federal Government) will address this need. Project 1 is described in Attachment 1.

Policies and process relating to approving the disposition of Federal Records: The responsibility for approving the disposition of Federal records is the most critical statutory responsibility held by the Archivist of the United States because it determines how long records must be kept to protect individual rights, ensure accountability in Government, and document the national experience. The policies and the process we use to carry out this responsibility are central to the mission of the National Archives and Records Administration. This responsibility for determining the disposition of records has been carried out through a scheduling and appraisal process for most of the 20th century. The process for scheduling records is an important tool for managing records throughout their life cycle, and it is a process that our Strategic Plan identifies as being in need of a major overhaul.

NARA has long recognized the very real need to rethink the methods used for the scheduling of Federal records. The 1989 report of NARA's Committee on Authorities and Program Alternatives (CAPA), "NARA and the Disposition of Federal Records: Laws and Authorities and their Implementation," points out the need to dramatically revise the government scheduling process. NARA's Strategic Plan states that NARA needs to work in partnership with Federal officials, Congress, the courts, and others to ensure that records are "created, identified, maintained, and appropriately scheduled for as long as needed" and identifies the redesign of the scheduling process as a priority. Further, NARA's plan calls for improving "the clarity and consistency of NARA's regulations and guidance . . . taking into account the changes new legislation and new technologies are bringing to Federal agency recordkeeping practices." Agencies need to know how to legally manage the disposition of all documentation they create, regardless of medium, in light of current recordkeeping practices. We will evaluate our current policies and process for determining the disposition of records in the context of this new environment. Project 2 (Policy Analysis of Current Records Disposition Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance and Recommended Changes) and Project 3 (Analysis and Redesign of the Scheduling and Appraisal Process) will deal with policies and the process for determining records disposition. Projects 2 and 3 are described in Attachments 2 and 3.

As called for in our Strategic Plan, NARA also plans to build an automated capability to support the inventorying and scheduling of records. As the plan states, "We will urge Federal agencies to use the system so that together we can identify all Federal records created by agencies, review their contents, and assure ourselves of not losing essential evidence." NARA must examine and redesign, if necessary, the scheduling process before automation of the process can begin. Automation needs will be identified as part of Project 3.

3. Goals and Outcomes.

The revised policies and processes developed as a result of these three projects must make possible dramatic improvements in:

  • preserving records as long as they are needed to protect rights, ensure accountability, and document the national experience and
  • destroying records as soon as it is practical to do so after they are no longer needed.

NARA intends through the three projects to document the current recordkeeping and records use environment of Federal agencies and the impact of electronic technology on that environment as it relates to records disposition practices and other records management issues, evaluate and define what should be the Federal Government's policies on determining the disposition of Federal records in that environment, and define the process that will best implement those policies and identify the tools needed to support the revised policies and process.

More specifically:

1. Current Record Keeping Environment: We will identify and document current patterns in Federal agencies for the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records in light of changing technology and changes in recordkeeping responsibilities within agencies. We need to know, for example, how relevant records schedules are in actual records maintenance and disposition practices. Information learned as part of this effort will inform policy analysis and process redesign projects that are part of this initiative as well as inform other NARA efforts outside the scope of this initiative to develop electronic recordkeeping requirements or improve records management guidance and assistance to agencies.

2. Policy Analysis: We will analyze and make decisions, as needed, on key policy issues related to determining the disposition of records. Key questions have been raised during the past decade, including through litigation, regarding what Federal documentation requires the approval of the Archivist for disposition and what actually is a Federal record in the electronic environment. We need to understand the impact of such litigation as well the impact of related legislation, such as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and the Freedom of Information Act, on records disposition. Records now exist as multiple copies in multiple media and we must evaluate and decide whether current policies are adequate for meeting NARA's statutory responsibility for approving the disposition of records. Decisions made in this area also will inform the process analysis and redesign project (Project 3) as well as other NARA efforts, such as developing electronic recordkeeping requirements and improving records management guidance and assistance to agencies that are outside the scope of these three projects.

3. Scheduling and Appraisal Process Redesign:

A. We will make the process for determining the disposition of records, regardless of medium, more effective and efficient and dramatically decrease the time that it takes to get approval for the disposition of records from the Archivist.

B. We will also define how the revised scheduling and appraisal process will be automated and what information must be collected systematically by Federal agencies and by NARA to support the process and NARA's life cycle management of records. We will decide how to apply technology to support the process for determining the disposition of records as part of managing records throughout their life cycle. Because actions taken at the time of a record's creation may affect its ultimate preservation and continuing use, NARA plans to revise and automate as appropriate all of its processes supporting the management of records throughout their life cycle. For NARA, the life cycle includes the planning and development of records systems, creation or receipt of records by a Federal agency or court, maintenance and use of records for current agency business, and the eventual destruction or continuing use of records in an archives or other repository.

4. Relationship of Projects.

NARA will address the goals listed in Section 3 above through three separate, but inter-related projects. Project 1 (Current Recordkeeping and Records Use Environment of the Federal Government) will begin first. Project 2 (Policy Analysis of Current Records Disposition Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance and Recommended Changes) will begin before the completion of Project 1 but can not be completed until the first project is completed. Project 3(Analysis and Redesign of the Scheduling and Appraisal Process) cannot be completed until both Projects 1 and 2 are completed. The project outlines in Attachments 1, 2, and 3 are based on our current understanding of the issues. Projects 2 and 3 will be modified based on what is learned in Project 1.

5. Assumptions Underlying the Three Projects.

1. We must conduct the projects within the context of the entire life cycle. In making decisions we must always be aware of implications for other areas of the life cycle. These projects are part of NARA's effort to reexamine the management of Federal records throughout the entire life cycle. Any change in any area of the life cycle must be coordinated throughout the entire life cycle.

2. We must conduct the projects with a constant awareness of the implications of decisions for Federal agencies, for NARA, and for the public. We will involve these customers and stakeholders throughout these projects.

3. We must conduct the projects without being limited by current policies, laws, regulations, or traditions. Because these all evolved to deal with the world of paper records, it is likely that some changes may be necessary to adequately address the disposition of records created by new technologies. On the other hand, we should not feel compelled to make changes if they are unnecessary.

4. Appraisal policy and criteria should not be driven by a separate accessioning policy. Appraisal decisions should drive accessioning practice (including the use of affiliated archives), not the other way around. That is, appraisal decisions should be based on the value of the records being appraised, not on NARA's current ability to accession them. In addition, accessioning issues need to be considered at the time of appraisal, rather than as a later, separate analysis.

5. To understand key records management and archival concepts, the projects will use the definitions of archival and records management terms provided in the Society of American Archivists' Glossary for Archivists, Manuscript Curators, and Records Managers (until such time as the International Council on Archives releases its updated glossary). This will help ensure that the project is not limited by the current definitions in NARA guidance. However, those working on the project must be aware of existing Federal definitions in 36 CFR, 1220 through 1238.

6. In this document, the use of words such as "scheduling," "appraisal," and other terms that describe the current process and the tools used in the current process for determining the disposition of records does not imply that the redesigned process and tools will be the same as current ones.

7. Project 3 will consider the automated tools necessary to support any revised process for determining the disposition of records. In considering the tools and necessary data to support the process, the project should assume that the public will at some point in time have access to agency records schedule information, whether through direct access provided by Federal agencies or NARA or through FOIA requests from interested members of the public.

8. NARA is implementing a number of information technology, process redesign, and agency-wide system development projects that will have an impact on the redesign of the scheduling and appraisal process and the development of supporting automated tools. These impacts must be understood and monitored.

9. Issues relating to change that may emerge from these projects require us to carefully address the concerns of Federal agencies, NARA staff, and members of the public.

10. Litigation arising from records management issues may continue throughout the period of the projects. This may affect the progress of the projects if resources have to be diverted.


Attachment 1

Project 1: Current Recordkeeping and Records Use in the Federal Government

1. Purpose.

The objective of this project is to identify and document in a report current patterns in Federal agencies for the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records in light of changing technology and changing records management responsibilities of staff within Federal agencies. NARA, Federal agencies, and government policymakers must better understand the current recordkeeping environment in order to have an effective records program that meets the needs of Federal agencies and the public.

This information will inform further analysis of policy and process issues in projects 2 and 3, as well as inform other NARA efforts such as the development of electronic recordkeeping requirements or the improvement of records management guidance and assistance to agencies that are outside the scope of the three projects discussed here.

2. Scope.

The report(s) on the current recordkeeping environment in Federal agencies will focus on two key areas:

1. Records creation, maintenance, and disposition practices. How are Federal employees creating, using, and disposing of Federal records and what implications does that have for the Government's records management program? How are records management actions actually occurring in Executive, Legislative, and Judicial agencies? What do employees have to say about how well their agency recordkeeping environment is meeting their business needs, including their ability to locate records when they are needed?

2. Records use in Federal agencies. Is electronic technology leading to changes in patterns of use within Federal agencies that require a fundamental rethinking of the Government's records management program?

A contractor will be selected to design and implement an information collection methodology that will obtain the views and perceptions of agency personnel involved in selected work processes concerning the topics below. The contractor will analyze the information collected and prepare a report that identifies major patterns in perceptions and views in Federal agencies relating to the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records. The contractor will also provide comments on the NARA records system analysis methodology.

NARA staff will design and implement a records system analysis methodology. The NARA staff in Washington, DC, and the regions will work cooperatively with agencies to select a small number of records systems that support the work of Government policy and/or mission-related processes. They will study the business processes and the records that are generated by those processes. The staff will work cooperatively with agencies to identify records that have value for the protection of the rights of citizens, document Government accountability, or have continuing research value. The staff will analyze the creation, maintenance, and disposition of those records. In the case of permanent records, the staff will examine existing NARA holdings to see what records have been transferred to NARA for permanent preservation and use. NARA staff will examine what records scheduled for permanent retention have not yet been transferred to NARA and work with agencies to understand why.

Either NARA staff or a contractor will combine and analyze the two sets of collected data and prepare a report that identifies major patterns in Federal agencies relating to the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records.

Specific topics to be addressed in the report as part of these issues are identified below. Others may be added as the project progresses and as determined necessary by NARA and the contractor supporting this project.

A. Records Creation, Maintenance, and Disposition Practices in Federal Agencies 1. Document how Federal employees are creating, managing, and disposing of records.

  • How is technology affecting records creation, management, and disposition? Identify to what extent Federal employees are relying on electronic records to conduct their business and to keep records of their business activities. Are the Internet, data warehousing, and knowledge management affecting the management of records in agencies? If so, how?
  • Are people working in a team environment more than a few years ago? If so, whom is responsible for the records of the work of the team?
  • What have been the effects of downsizing and the reduction of records management and clerical personnel in the agency? Are there fewer people doing clerical work than 5 or 10 years ago? Has that had an impact on their recordkeeping (filing records, storing or maintaining them, locating and retrieving records when they are needed, and taking disposition actions on them)?
  • Are records relating to rights and government accountability, and records of continuing research value being created? Are they being managed and disposed of in a systematic and appropriate manner? Are they being managed and disposed of in accordance with the Federal Records Act, NARA regulations, and NARA approved schedules?
  • Can agency employees find the records that they need? If not, why not?

2. Who is involved in creating records systems (electronic and manual systems), managing the records in the records systems, and taking disposition actions? Identify the roles and responsibilities of the following categories of Federal employees regarding recordkeeping: personnel working in the work processes selected as part of the project, the Records Management Staff, the Chief Information Officer and Information Management/Information Technology Staff, the General Counsel's Office, the Inspector General, and the Policy Office. Examine the involvement, views, and interest in records issues on the part of individuals in these units.

3. Do Federal employees understand that they create and manage Federal records? Identify to what extent the distinction between record and non-record is useful to Federal employees in determining whether they are creating and managing records. Identify to what extent Federal employees are able to distinguish between what is a record or non-record under the current statutory definition.

4. Do Federal employees distinguish between recordkeeping for individual purposes and for organizational purposes? How do they do this? Identify upon what basis Federal employees make decisions to retain and dispose of records and to what extent schedules are used in decisions to retain or dispose of records. Examine whether records schedules are useful to Federal employees as a tool.

5. Identify whether the following are associated with differences in how records are created, managed, and disposed of:

  • What roles, if any, agency "corporate culture" and professional background of agency personnel play in how records are managed and disposed of. Examine whether agencies with certain cultures (e.g., defense, law enforcement, intelligence, judicial, scientific, and social services) have particular business needs that result in different ways in which agency records are created and managed and in agency disposition practices.
  • Whether different types of work processes (e.g., regulation enforcement, case work, and research) are associated with different ways in which agency records are created and managed and in different agency disposition practices.
  • Whether there are major differences in the records management and disposition practices between field organizations and headquarters organizations.

How important is recordkeeping in the work the agency employees are doing? If there are significant differences, NARA may develop a varied suite of records management and disposition tools to address these differences.

6. Identify the differences in the management, use, and disposition of paper records, electronic records, and records in other media in Federal agencies. How do electronic records currently relate to paper recordkeeping systems? Identify to what extent "hybrid" (combinations of electronic, paper, and other media) systems are in use.

7. Examine to what extent general training or assistance is being provided in Federal agencies in recordkeeping requirements or procedures and how effective it is. Identify what kind of agency guidance is provided on electronic records, if any. Examine to what extent agencies are providing end user training in the creation, management, and disposition of electronic records.

8. Assess to what extent electronic document management systems, records management applications, and other technological tools are being used to manage records in Federal agencies and with what success. What problems are being encountered?

9. Examine to what extent, if at all, outsourcing Government program functions has affected the creation, maintenance, and disposition of Federal records.

10. Examine to what extent Federal agency employees believe that current recordkeeping practices in their agency adequately address agency business needs, including their ability to locate records when they are needed. Assess how recent legislation, such as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, has or is likely to affect Federal agencies' creation, management, and disposition of records.

11. Identify what Federal employees believe is needed to meet anticipated future records needs, including the kinds of training Federal agency employees say they need to play a responsible role in the creation, maintenance, and disposition of Federal records. For example, do they say they need additional clerical staff? An electronic recordkeeping system? Some kind of automatic filing system for their electronically created records?

12. Assess to what extent adequate documentation is being created by Federal agencies to protect individual rights and ensure accountability. Assess to what extent records, including records of continuing research value, are being kept for the right amount of time.

13. Examine the kinds of records of continuing value that are coming to NARA and to what extent records that should be coming to NARA are in fact coming. What records are being retained in agencies and why, and what records are being transferred to third party entities and why?

14. When appropriate disposition actions occur, to what extent do they occur in response to NARA's official disposition program (scheduling and appraisal) and organized agency records management programs? On what basis are disposition actions taken (e.g., official NARA approved retention schedules, agency guidance, institutional memory, and/or decisions of the individual)?

B. Records Use in Federal Agencies

1. Examine whether technology changes are leading to changes in patterns of use in Federal agencies. Are developments such as E-mail, the Internet, data warehousing, and knowledge management significantly affecting the use of records in agencies? Are agencies increasingly using records in ways that go beyond the business functions and uses for which they were created?

2. Examine whether technology is changing how users within agencies and external (Government and non-government) users request records and information from records and how they want records and information presented to them. Identify how requesters ask to use the records (e.g., in agency offices, in hard copy via mail, electronically via the Internet).

3. Examine to what extent Federal agency employees need or use Federal records from other agencies of the Federal Government. Are these records incorporated into the employees' agency recordkeeping systems? To what extent are Federal agencies using records and other information from non-Federal Government sources in conducting business? Is that information incorporated into agency record-keeping systems?

4. Are changes in use patterns of agency records within or outside agencies affecting recordkeeping within agencies?

5. Are Federal agency personnel aware of/concerned about use of their records by the agency, by other Federal agencies, and by users outside the Federal Government in ways that go beyond the business functions and uses for which they were created?

6. Identify the types of concerns Federal agency employees have about the use of their agency's Federal records today. Do concerns about the use of Federal records affect the creation, maintenance, and disposition of Federal records by Federal agency employees? This project will include a variety of Federal agencies and their employees from both the Washington, DC, area and regional offices. This project will be limited to gathering information from employees of the Federal Government. Its success depends on the cooperation of Federal agencies and their employees and their willingness to assist NARA in openly assessing the current recordkeeping and records use environment in the Federal Government. The project will be designed with that in mind. Information regarding the needs and uses of the public for Federal records will be gathered as part of the redesign of the scheduling and appraisal process because the public is the ultimate customer of that process.

3. Key Project Tasks and Resources.

This project will use a variety of mechanisms, including focus groups, interviews, surveys, and detailed records systems analyses in specific agencies to collect the needed information. Listed here are the key tasks needed to support the project, not an exhaustive list of the project tasks.

Task 1. Following a contract award, the contractor, in consultation with NARA, will decide on the methodologies to be used in gathering the information needed to address this project and develop a detailed project plan.

Task 2. The contractor will design and administer procedures for the information gathering from focus groups, interviews, or surveys with Federal agency employees or related professional Federal groups, such as the Chief Information Officers Council and the Federal Information and Records Managers (FIRM) Council. The contractor will also analyze the collected data.

Task 3. The contractor will write a draft and final report analyzing and documenting the results of the study, incorporating the findings of the focus groups, interviews, surveys, and records systems analyses undertaken to address this project.

Task 4. The contractor will review and comment on the methodology designed by NARA for its records systems analyses.

Task 5. NARA will decide on the design of the records systems analyses, including the issues to be addressed and the agencies to be included. NARA staff in Washington, DC, and the regions will work cooperatively with agencies to select a small number of records systems that support the work of Government administrative and/or mission-related processes. They will study the business processes and the records that are generated by those processes. The staff will work cooperatively with agencies to identify records that have value for the protection of the rights and interests of citizens and the Government and for permanent research use. The staff will analyze the creation, maintenance, and disposition of those records. In the case of permanent records, the staff will examine existing NARA holdings to see what records have been transferred to NARA for permanent preservation and use. NARA staff will examine what records scheduled for permanent retention have not yet been transferred to NARA and work with agencies to understand why. They will identify the roles of the various agency entities in creating and managing records and in records disposition. Work conducted in this task will complement the work in Task 2 above.

Task 6. NARA will conduct records systems analyses and complete reports for each agency.

Task 7. NARA or a contractor will combine the information collected in Tasks 2 and 5 above and perform additional analysis on the produce a draft and final report that identifies major patterns that emerge in Federal agencies relating to the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records. (NARA may choose to do this task itself or to exercise an option for contractor support.)

Resources. NARA will seek the support of a contractor with experience with records and information management public policy issues to:

1. Recommend the methodology and techniques appropriate to identify and document the perceptions and views of Federal employees concerning the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records.

2. Implement the approved methodology to collect the information needed to identify and document the perceptions and views of Federal employees concerning the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of Federal records.

3. Write a draft and final report analyzing and documenting the findings of the information collection described above.

4. Comment on a proposed NARA design of the records systems analyses. The records systems analyses in specific agencies and individual reports will be administered and written by NARA staff.

5. NARA may exercise an option to have the contractor compile and analyze the combined findings of the contractor information collection concerning views and perceptions and the NARA records systems analyses.

4. Project Management.

The Deputy Archivist will have overall responsibility for the project and be the primary point of contact for the contractor on substantive questions and issues. The Assistant Archivist for Records Services-Washington, DC will oversee the implementation of the individual records systems analyses, reporting to the Deputy Archivist. A Projects Review Team will review and comment on products related to the project at the request of the Deputy Archivist and will advise the Archivist and Deputy Archivist, as needed. The Deputy Archivist will report to the Leadership Team on the progress of the project and request advice, as needed. A project manager and NPLN staff will provide staff support to the Deputy Archivist.


Attachment 2

Project 2: Policy Analysis of Current Records Disposition Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance and Recommended Changes

1. Purpose

The purpose of this project is to analyze and make decisions, as necessary, on key policy issues related to determining the disposition of records, regardless of the process used. NARA needs to evaluate its current legislation, regulations, and guidance to determine if it is adequate for agencies and NARA to meet their statutory responsibilities for determining appropriate records disposition in the current recordkeeping environment. The outcome of this project will be policy decisions that will result in statutorily-based, clearly articulated, consistent policies developed and adopted in law, regulations, and guidance that support the appropriate disposition of all Government documentation in today's multi-media environment.

Key questions have been raised during the past decade, including through litigation, regarding what Federal documentation requires the approval of the Archivist for disposition and what actually is a Federal record in the electronic environment. We need to understand the impact of such litigation as well as the impact of legislation, such as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and of the Freedom of Information Act, on records disposition. Records now exist as multiple copies in multiple media and we must evaluate and decide whether current policies are adequate for meeting NARA's statutory responsibility for approving the disposition of records.

The analysis and decisions made in this effort will inform the redesign of the current scheduling and appraisal process, as well as other NARA efforts (such as developing electronic record-keeping requirements and improving records management guidance and assistance to agencies) that are outside the scope of the process redesign.

2. Scope.

NARA will examine the following issues as part of its policy analysis related to determining the disposition of Federal records. More policy issues are likely to be added based on questions raised by Project 1 or Tasks 2 and 3 of Project 3.

1. What are the goals of the Federal records scheduling and appraisal program for Federal agencies, NARA and the public? Do current statutes, regulations, and guidance reflect those goals? If not, what changes are necessary?.

2. Are the concepts of record and non-record useful as defined in the Federal Records Act for the purpose of determining records disposition? Are the concepts useful for managing the disposition of records? Does non-record equal convenience copies? Should 'personal records' or 'papers' be defined in statute in the FRA? What would be the implications of calling everything a record? Do NARA regulations and guidance clearly and consistently clarify the distinction between record/non-record? If not, why not? What changes in NARA regulations and guidance are necessary?

3. Based on NARA's statutory requirements, what should be the agencies' role and NARA's role in determining the disposition of records? To meet NARA's statutory requirements, what kind of Government documentation must be approved by the Archivist for disposition?

a. Record copies or record copies and all other copies of records in the same medium or format? Are exact copies that are used for different purposes both record copies that should be scheduled? Does our statutory responsibility include determining the disposition of a record copy for each format in which a record exists or for approving the disposition of a single record copy regardless of format? Currently, NARA guidance states that when a series of paper records has been microfilmed or converted to electronic form, the result in each case is not one but two series that should be separately inventoried and scheduled. This implies that each time a series is converted from one medium to another, it must be scheduled separately. Should this be NARA's position? If not, what should it be?

b. Media/formats? Does NARA have or should NARA have any responsibility for determining the medium in which a record series or system should be maintained or is that solely an agency responsibility?

4. What, if any, are the implications of records-related legislation, such as the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, on determining the disposition of records? Do NARA regulations and guidance adequately address the implications of such legislation for determining the disposition of records? If not, what changes are necessary? Should the statutory definition of record in the FRA and the Freedom of Information Act be the same?

5. Does the current recordkeeping environment in the Federal Government and the impact of technology on that environment require statutory changes to the Federal Records Act for NARA and Federal agencies to meet their responsibility for determining the disposition of records? If so, what changes are necessary?

6. Is the current system of General Records Schedules effective for managing the appropriate disposition of records? Is NARA guidance clear on when an agency can use GRS dispositions and when an agency should not use such dispositions? Do agencies understand the appropriate use of General Records Schedules? Because program records are not appropriate for scheduling by means of General Records Schedules, are there alternatives to individual agency schedules, such as model schedules, for determining the disposition of program records that are shared across agencies?

7. Is mandatory destruction of records according to approved retention periods beneficial or harmful to Federal government records management? Are statutory changes needed in this area? If so, what changes are necessary?

8. If the Archivist were to establish an external Advisory Committee made up primarily of government and public members to advise the Archivist on disposition approvals, what would be the responsibilities of such a group? What are the advantages and disadvantages of establishing such a group?

3. Key Project Tasks and Resources.

Listed here are the key tasks needed to support the project, not an exhaustive list of the project tasks.

Task 1. NARA will complete the update of Basic Laws and Authorities and the regulations review chart as a baseline for further review, and develop a process for keeping these up to date.

Task 2. NARA will evaluate its legislation, regulations, and guidance in light of the findings of Project 1, Tasks 2 and 3 of Project 3, and other relevant information and recommend policy areas that need to be addressed by the Archivist or other issues that need to be addressed by NARA's records management program.

Task 3. NARA will determine the final list of key policy questions to be addressed to ensure that NARA is meeting its statutory obligations for approving the disposition of records using the findings of Project 1, the needs assessment in Tasks 2 and 3 of Project 3, and other relevant information.

Task 4. NARA will complete structured policy and legal analysis of each key question defined in Task 3, including concise description and background of the issue, alternatives for addressing the issue, the pros and cons of each alternative, implications of each alternative for other policy areas, the scheduling and appraisal process and other life cycle processes, and the legislative or regulatory changes required by each alternative, if any. This analysis will also include a review of the findings of Project 1, Tasks 2 and 3 of Project 3, and all relevant NARA statutes, regulations, and guidance for each key policy area being analyzed. Comments on the analyses will be sought from Federal agencies, NARA staff, and interested members of the public and compiled as part of the information for the decision-making process.

Task 5. NARA will make necessary decisions and communicate those decisions. NARA will revise or create policy issuances as required, share for comment through normal policy and rule-making processes, and seek any necessary statutory changes, if needed.

4. Project Management.

The Deputy Archivist and the Director of the Policy and Planning Staff will co-direct this project. The General Counsel will oversee any required legal analysis. A Records Projects Review Team will review all products. The Leadership Team will review all analysis and provide advice to the Archivist on all decisions to be made as part of this effort in keeping with their Leadership Team responsibilities. Policy and Planning staff will provide support as part of their normal responsibilities for coordinating agency review of policy and proposed policy changes.

This project, other than Task 1, should not be begun until the completion of Project 1. The project will be undertaken for the most part using NARA staff resources, although a decision may be made at a later date to seek outside contractor support for some of the needed analysis.


Attachment 3

Project 3: Analysis and Redesign of the Scheduling and Appraisal Process

1. Purpose.

NARA will examine and redesign, if necessary, the process used by the Federal government to determine the disposition of records. The goals for this project are found in Section 3 of the Overview, specific goals numbers 3A and 3B. They are to:

  • make the process for determining the disposition of records, regardless of medium, more effective and efficient and dramatically decrease the time that it takes to get approval for the disposition of records from the Archivist, and
  • define how the revised scheduling and appraisal process will be automated and what information must be collected systematically by Federal agencies and by NARA to support the process and NARA's life cycle management of records, and to decide how to apply technology to support the process for determining the disposition of records as part of managing records throughout their life cycle

2. Scope.

This project will address the scheduling and appraisal of Federal records in all formats. The project must determine the most appropriate ways of involving agencies, NARA and the public in the process for determining the disposition of records and coordinating their activities for maximum effectiveness.

For the purposes of this project, the scheduling and appraisal process should be seen as a single continuous process for determining and recording the appropriate retention period and the disposition of Federal records. The end product of the process is a disposition authority for specified Federal records approved by the Archivist of the United States. Within the process are a number of stages or sub-processes that this project will examine:

  • identification of records created by an agency to be scheduled (inventorying records),
  • recommendations of dispositions for those records and submission of draft schedules to NARA and the Government Accounting Office (GAO) for approval,
  • records appraisal and disposition approval by the Archivist, and
  • schedule review and updates.

In turn, each of these sub-processes can be further broken down.

This project will include work processes currently performed by the Office of Records Service-Washington, DC, the Office of Regional Records Services, the Office of the Federal Register, the Archivist and Deputy Archivist, and the Policy and Planning Staff. The project will exclude issues and processes relating to the disposition of donated historical materials and the disposition of records, such as Presidential records, that are not covered by the Federal Records Act.

The following life cycle process areas are to be excluded from redesign in this project: agency records creation, agency schedule implementation, transfer of records to records center storage, accessioning of permanent records into the National Archives, archival description, and archival reference. These processes are closely related to those within the scope of the project. Therefore, it will be necessary as part of this project to identify and assess the potential impact of process changes on the out-of-scope processes as well as the broad relationships between and among the in-scope and out-of-scope processes. NARA's Strategic Plan calls for follow-on projects to address the policies and processes related to other stages of the life cycle.

In addition to redesigning the process for determining the disposition of records, the project will consider how to appropriately apply technology to support the revised process. This project will specifically consider technology enhancements for all stages of the revised process, including reviewing existing automated systems (or their planned replacements) within NARA that support scheduling and appraisal.

The project will consider data management issues for all stages of the scheduling and appraisal process to ensure that there is sufficient compatibility with present or planned systems for other parts of the life cycle and will coordinate its work with the life cycle data standards program. This project will include review of existing automated systems (or their planned replacements) within NARA that support other life cycle responsibilities. Consideration will be given to data needed to manage records throughout their life cycle.

This project will develop the business requirements for automating those parts of the new or revised processes that could benefit from automation. The project will not develop any automated systems to implement recommendations.

This redesign project must produce the following:

  • A process that results in record schedules or alternative tools that inform users of the appropriate disposition of Government documentation in all media.
  • A responsive process that ensures timely submissions of disposition requests from agencies and timely approvals by NARA.
  • An effective, productive, and timely process for determining dispositions for records in all media without sacrificing the quality of appraisal decisions.
  • The ability to consistently justify appraisal decisions by NARA.
  • Support and credibility among agencies, NARA staff, and the public for the process for determining the disposition of records and for appraisal decisions.
  • Identification of business requirements for automated tools to support the scheduling and appraisal process as part of managing records throughout their life cycle.
  • Agreement on the information sources and the information elements that must be collected systematically to support the scheduling and appraisal process and provide access to information about scheduled records and records being scheduled, as well as a plan to consistently gather such information.
  • A means of gathering information as part of the scheduling and appraisal process that supports all the life cycle processes to the extent possible without compromising other objectives.

Based on the Archivist's memorandum, NARA 99-144, we will address the following issues. Additional issues may arise in the course of the project.

1. Examine the viability of approaches other than scheduling as currently implemented by the Federal Government to accomplish the appropriate disposition of Federal records. For example, would revised guidance and regulations that eliminate the need for scheduling some records that must now be scheduled improve efficiency and result in improvements in preserving records for as long as needed?

2. Define the purpose and uses of records schedules or alternative tools. Possible purposes or uses might include serving as a tool:

  • to ensure that records are kept for the appropriate length of time and that permanently valuable records are saved,
  • to identify the media in which record copies are kept,
  • for agency records management and information technology staff to manage records agency wide,
  • for agency staff to manage records at the desktop or in their office space,
  • for agencies to implement an electronic recordkeeping system,
  • for agencies to use in their vital records programs,
  • for records center staff to identify and manage the disposition of records in their physical custody,
  • for NARA staff to monitor schedule implementation and perform accessioning, declassification, description, and reference work,
  • for the public to evaluate appraisal decisions,
  • for the public to learn about Federal documentation in and outside of NARA custody.
  • What else?

3. Define what kinds of information must be documented in disposition tools for them to be effective in meeting their purposes, defined through the issues above. Define what information must be collected by agencies and/or NARA to support the various stages of the disposition process. Define what changes are needed in the SF 115 form. Define at what level(s) of description records should be listed in disposition tools to be effective in meeting their purposes, as identified in the question above.

4. Define how the disposition tools should document a records series, portions of which exist in different media/formats.

5. Define the purposes of the inventorying process and the records inventory it produces. Define at what level of description records should be inventoried to support the scheduling and appraisal process. Does it have value beyond the scheduling and appraisal process for various stages in the life cycle? Can the inventorying forms for various media be consolidated with additional elements added that are media specific, rather than having separate forms for various media? Are inventory forms separate from the SF 115 form needed or can the basic information needed for both inventorying and determining disposition be combined on one form?

6. Define Federal agencies' role and NARA's role in the various stages of the scheduling and appraisal process.

7. Define a realistic process that ensures timely and efficient determination of the appropriate disposition of records.

8. Define how NARA can streamline its appraisal review process to the extent possible without sacrificing the quality of decisions. Address who needs to be involved in appraisal review, what methods will be used to accomplish appraisal review and approval, and who will be responsible for what. Address how differences between NARA staff and agency staff on proposed dispositions can be resolved in a more timely manner and not result in simple withdrawal of proposed schedules. Address how differences among NARA staff on proposed dispositions can be resolved in a more timely manner. Would an internal Appraisal Review Committee be useful to gather staff input on schedules rather than the current process? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of such a Committee?

9. Define a process for determining the disposition of records that to the extent possible results in appropriate, credible, and consistent retention decisions taking into account the interests of all stakeholders.

a. Define what values and criteria agencies should use when developing recommendations for disposition of records and for determining the disposition of non-records. Determine if current NARA guidance is sufficient so agencies understand the basis on which disposition recommendations are reviewed by NARA or if it needs to be modified.

b. Define a framework for identifying the criteria and values NARA should use in appraising records for disposition.

c. Determine the level of analysis necessary to justify appraisal decisions. Do we need to change the documentation of the appraisal process to better document justifications for decisions?

d. Determine whether there are any methodologies which would increase the likelihood that appraisal of similar records would consistently result in similar appraisal decisions or that the same appraisal project given to two NARA teams would result in acceptably similar recommendations.

10. NARA is committed to using automation to support the revised process for determining the disposition of records. Define a blueprint that lays out the business requirements for developing automated tools to support the scheduling and appraisal process as part of managing records throughout their life cycle. Define the information sources and information elements that must be collected systematically by Federal agencies or by NARA to support the revised process and provide access to information about scheduled records and/or records being scheduled and a plan to consistently gather such information.

3. Project Tasks and Resources..

The tasks listed here represent the key tasks needed to support the project. This is not an exhaustive list of the project tasks. A thorough list of project tasks, sub-tasks, and deliverables will be developed as part of a detailed statement of work. NARA will seek a contractor to undertake the following tasks, with the exception of Task 1, which is currently underway.

Task 1.  Using existing contract support, NARA will produce the following:

1. A high-level As Is process model of the entire records life cycle.
2. A detailed As Is process model of the scheduling and appraisal process for records in all media from Federal agencies in Washington, DC, and the field.
3. Documentation of the Information sources and information elements that relate to the As Is records life cycle processes, together with the relationships of those sources and elements to activities within the life cycle processes.
4. Documentation of the Information sources and information elements that relate to the As Is detailed scheduling and appraisal process model, together with the relationships of those sources and elements to activities within the process.

Task 2.  The contractor will complete government needs assessment of the scheduling and appraisal process. Before a re-design of the process can begin, NARA needs to understand the needs of the process' current Government customers. For the purposes of this task, the Government customers are Federal agency employees and NARA employees. Public customers will be addressed in Task 3. This needs assessment should identify the objectives that Government customers have for the Federal records scheduling activity broadly understood, their level of satisfaction with the current policies and processes related to determining the disposition of Federal records, their problems or concerns with the current process, and suggestions for improvement to the process.

In addition to addressing customer needs regarding the process, this assessment will also identify concerns and suggestions for improvements to the process from NARA management and staff in their capacity as administrators of this Government process. This should include the objectives for NARA for the Federal records scheduling activity broadly understood, level of satisfaction with the current policies and process, how effectively the process is currently being implemented, any problems that staff and management have in administering the process, and their suggestions for improvement.

Unlike Project 1, which focuses on Federal employees in many capacities throughout the Federal Government, this needs assessment will target Federal employees in the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches in Washington DC and the field who have some current interaction or familiarity as a customer with the scheduling and appraisal process. Exact composition of the representative sample, the questions to be used, and the methodology and techniques will be recommended by the contractor for approval by NARA. It is assumed that the methodology will include survey techniques, interviews, and focus groups. Additional input into the final report of the needs assessment will also be drawn from the findings of Project 1, if appropriate.

Task 3.  The contractor will complete public customer assessment of success of the current scheduling process. One of the key goals of the scheduling process is to determine the appropriate period to retain Federal records to protect individual rights, ensure accountability in government, and to document the national experience. The Government cannot nor should it retain all Federal records indefinitely, but it must ensure that it does not destroy records it needs for its current business or that will be needed by the public as essential evidence. NARA needs to understand how well the current process is meeting the public's needs for the retention of Federal records. To do this, we need to understand the current and projected patterns of Federal records use by the public. We need to understand if public users of Federal records are locating the records they need and, if not, to what extent is the failure due to the records not being retained by the Government. We need to understand if technology is changing how the public requests Federal records, receives, and uses records. We also need to understand how they want the records presented to them, i.e., hard copy, microform, or electronic. We need to know whether current and projected patterns of use of Federal records are likely to have a significant impact on the scheduling process, particularly regarding the criteria and methods used for appraising records for retention.

In addition to gathering information regarding patterns of records use by the public, this assessment will identify the level of satisfaction of interested members of the public with the current scheduling process, any problems they have, and any suggestions for improvement.

Information will be collected from a representative sample of public customer groups throughout the country and will be done through focus groups and interviews. NARA managers or staff will lead any interactions with public user groups, but will seek the support of contractors to design the study and its questions in collaboration with NARA staff and to compile the results of the focus groups and interviews. NARA will seek OMB clearance for this project under the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act during the Summer of 2000 and will conduct the actual sessions during Spring 2001.

Task 4.  The redesign team working with the contractor will complete bench-marking. [Need language from Ren]

Task 5. The redesign team working with the contractor will develop a dynamic "as-is" model.

Task 6.  Prototyping.
Task 6.  The redesign team working with the contractor will develop "to be" model alternatives. Design alternative "to be" scenarios that will make the process for determining the disposition of records, regardless of media, more effective and efficient and dramatically decrease the time that it takes to get approval for the disposition of records from the Archivist. The scenarios should consider all the issues raised under the Scope statement] above (Project 3, Section 2). Complete refined "to be" scenarios will include: pros and cons for each alternative, including projected costs; implications of each alternative on existing legislation, regulations, and guidance and on other policy areas; and recommended implementation strategies. These scenarios will also identify areas in which automation should appropriately support the process.

Task 7. NARA will select the "to be" model for implementation. After sharing the alternative "to be" scenarios with Federal agencies, NARA staff, and interested members of the public for comment, the Archivist, with the advice of the Leadership Team, will select the scenario to be implemented.

Task 8. The redesign team working with the contractor will develop business requirements for automated tools to support the approved "to be" model. The contractor will produce a report outlining these requirements. This document also will identify the information sources and information elements that must be systematically collected by Federal agencies and NARA to support the revised process and provide access to information about scheduled records and records being scheduled to Federal agencies, NARA, and the public.

Task 9. The contractor will create an implementation plan. The implementation plan must include all the steps necessary to implement the revised process, including identifying any needed statutory or regulatory changes.

Task 10. The contractor working with NARA will develop a communications plan that will effectively communicate the goals, progress, and outcomes of the project to NARA staff, other Federal agencies and the public.

Task 1l. The contractor will develop a change management approach and a training plan.

7.4.  Project Management.

The Assistant Archivist for Human Resources and Information Management will direct this project, reporting to the Deputy Archivist. The Projects Review Team will review all products. The Archivist will make the final decision in selecting a revised process with the advice of the Leadership Team. The Policy and Planning Staff will be responsible for circulating and compiling comments from Federal agencies, NARA staff, and the public regarding the alternative "to be" scenarios as part of their normal responsibilities for coordinating changes to NARA policies and processes. A redesign team composed of NARA staff and staff from other Federal agencies will work with the contractor.

Records Managers >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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