Records Managers

Letter to the Heads of Federal Agencies


September 14, 2005

Dear Secretary/Administrator/Commissioner,

To assist Federal agencies with records affected by Hurricane Katrina, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) can provide assistance in the form of guidance and information regarding records recovery and records management to support your agencies' business operations.

Available NARA Assistance in Records Recovery, Records Management, and Information Security.

As recovery operations continue, your staff will need guidance and information relating to records recovery. The following are five points of contact for national and local records recovery, records management, and information security advice from NARA:

(1) For advice and assistance on records recovery issues, please contact Doris Hamburg, NARA's Director of Preservation Programs on 301-837-1785 or via email at or Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, Chief of the Document Conservation Laboratory on 301-837-2906 or via email at

(2) For advice and assistance on emergency disposal and other records management issues, please contact the appraisal archivist assigned to your agency. Please see the attached list of agency staff assignments and points of contact or you may access this list online.

(3) For advice and assistance on issues concerning classified national security information, please contact William J. Bosanko of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) on 202-219-5250 extension 238 or via email at

(4) For local advice and assistance in Louisiana, please contact Preston Huff, Assistant Regional Administrator, NARA's Southwest Region, based in Fort Worth, TX, on 817-831-5627 or via email at

(5) For local advice and assistance in Alabama and Mississippi, please contact Leanne Townsend-Cerame, Assistant Regional Administrator, NARA's Southeast Region, based in Atlanta, GA, on 404-736-2825 or via email at

NARA's Preservation Programs and Modern Records Programs also have on-line resources located at for records recovery information and for records management information related to records recovery. Please check these links frequently as we update information in response to the ongoing recovery efforts.

Delegation of Authority to Destroy Contaminated Records Constituting a Menace to Health, Life, or Property under Specific Conditions.

44 USC 3310 authorizes the Archivist to approve the destruction of contaminated records which constitute a menace to health, life or property. I am delegating to agency heads or your designee the authority to approve emergency disposal of records under the following conditions:

  1. The records are located in facilities affected by Katrina in Alabama, Mississippi, and/or Louisiana; and

  2. The records have been contaminated by toxic chemicals, biological waste, or other forms of hazardous material and the records pose a menace to health, life, or property; and

  3. The records are scheduled and have a temporary disposition of 10 years or less; and

  4. The information from the records is likely captured, at least in part, in other sources.

It is important that your agency and NARA document the emergency destruction of records, so as part of the delegation of authority to agency heads, it is required that the head of the agency or your designee who directed the records destruction submit a written statement to NARA (NWML), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, within 30 days describing the records, their location and quantity, and the nature of the menace; affirming that the records were scheduled and had a temporary disposition of 10 years or less; and that the information from the records is likely captured, at least in part, in other sources. To ease reporting requirements you just need to complete and forward to NARA (NWML) Section One of the Katrina Emergency Records Recovery/Disposal Form (attached).

It may also be necessary to destroy contaminated records that do not meet the above listed criteria. NARA must still approve the emergency destruction of records which do not meet the criteria, but to expedite approval agency officials can also complete Sections One of the Katrina Emergency Records Recovery/Disposal Form or they can email or call NARA staff listed on the attached contact list. NARA will review the request and respond quickly to the request. I have delegated the approval of requests for the emergency disposal of records to Paul Wester, Director of the Modern Records Programs.

As your agency continues working on recovery efforts, we expect that you will find that many records have been lost or destroyed by flooding, collapsed buildings, or other means. 44 USC 3106 states that heads of agencies must notify the Archivist of the destruction of records and there are reporting requirements in 36 CFR 1228.104. In lieu of those standard reporting requirements, agencies may complete Section One of the Katrina Emergency Records Recovery/Disposal Form and under "Damage" indicate that the records have been destroyed by flood, fire, building collapse, etc. This report should also be forwarded to NARA (NWML) within 30 days of the discovery of the destroyed records.

The staff at NARA joins the rest of the Federal workforce in supporting your agency's efforts to respond to the disaster at hand. The temporary delegations of authority outlined in this letter expire December 31, 2005. At that time, NARA will determine if it is necessary to extend the delegations of authority and will notify agency heads.

If you have any questions, please contact Paul Wester, Director of the Modern Records Programs, at 301-837-3120 or email him at


Archivist of the United States

Agency Chief Information Officer
Agency General Counsel
Agency Records Officer

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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