Davita Vance-Cooks Becomes 27th U.S. Public Printer

August 22, 2013

By Elizabeth Holland, AALL Public Policy Associate

Davita Vance-Cooks took the oath of office as Public Printer of the United States yesterday in a ceremony attended by family, friends, GPO employees, and invited guests, including AALL President Steve Anderson, Executive Director Kate Hagan, and Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren.  Vance-Cooks, who served as Acting Public Printer from January 2012 to August 2013, is the 27th Public Printer of the United States and is the first African American and the first woman to hold the position.

In her role as Acting Public Printer, Vance-Cooks led the rebranding of GPO as the “official, digital, secure” resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the federal government. AALL has worked closely with Vance-Cooks to address the priorities and challenges of the library community. In her remarks yesterday, Vance-Cooks spoke to GPO’s promising future, saying “I believe that change brings opportunities, and the future as represented by the digital world brings unlimited possibilities.” 

AALL President Anderson said, “Public Printer Vance-Cooks’ swearing-in clearly demonstrated her readiness to transform GPO for the digital age. I believe her business acumen, passion for government information, and commitment to addressing the needs of all stakeholders — including law libraries — will ensure that the agency meets its mission of Keeping American Informed.” 

The Senate voted unanimously to confirm the Vance-Cooks’ nomination to the position of Public Printer on August 1 just before the five-week August recess. According to GPO, her confirmation marked the swiftest Senate action on a Public Printer nominee in nearly 20 years. Vance-Cooks was nominated by President Obama on May 9. Her confirmation hearing was held June 12 before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which favorably reported her nomination to the full Senate on July 24. In early June, the five major library associations – AALL, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association and Special Libraries Association – submitted a statement for the record in support of Vance-Cooks.   

AALL congratulates Vance-Cooks on this historic achievement and we look forward to continuing to partner with the Government Printing Office under her leadership. 

Mounting Case for Classification Reform Amid NSA Leaks, Congressional Pressure

August 14, 2013

By Elizabeth

In the wake of the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will review the government’s classification systems, the agency recently announced in a letter to two members of Congress.

At the behest of Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Martha Roby (R-Ala.), the government auditors will evaluate the perceived over classification and “classification inflation” of national security materials.  In a June 19 letter, Rep. Hunter wrote the GAO: “The recent disclosure of classified information regarding U.S. national security programs requires a thorough assessment of the current classification system.”  Rep. Roby, chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, endorsed Rep. Hunter’s request with a separate letter to GAO, and in a July 30 reply, GAO wrote it would “begin the work shortly.”

The issue of balance between transparency and secrecy in national security issues has been at the heart of Congressional hearings and debates for many years, but legislation to make significant changes has repeatedly stalled. Now, two senators are adding pressure to reform and improve government’s classification system. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) introduced legislation (S. 1464) that would implement many of the recommendations from the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) designed to promote transparency and efficiency by reducing unnecessary classification and addressing the growing backlog of records awaiting declassification. The Shaheen-Risch legislation directs government agencies to automatically declassify information identified as having short-term sensitivity and seeks to enhance the National Declassification Center, which is charged with streamlining and overseeing the declassification process. AALL has advocated for a strong National Declassification Center since it was created by President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13526 on Classified National Security Information.

AALL’s Government Relations Policy states that security classification should be construed to promote open government while acknowledging the need for FOIA exemptions. AALL will continue to work with members of Congress to reform the classification system to promote access while protecting certain sensitive information.

Agency Self-Assessments Highlight Challenges for Records Management

August 12, 2013

By Elizabeth

In the 2012 Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA) released July 29, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reports inconsistencies among agencies’ approaches to preserving their official electronic records. The annual RMSA, now in its fourth year, determines whether federal agencies are complying with statutory and regulatory records management requirements by assigning a numerical score that places them in a Low, Moderate or High Risk category. The purpose of the RMSA is to “provide NARA and Federal Agencies with an objective measure of the current state of records management programs, the impact of changes made since the previous assessment, and data that can be used to make future changes,” as explained by NARA. The self-assessments of 241 government entities were included in this year’s report.

Among positive trends, the 2012 report highlights a growing contingent of agencies scored in the Low Risk category. While the majority of agencies still score in the Moderate to High Risk categories, NARA reports that there is movement upward in scores within these categories. Agencies have increased their permanent electronic records transfer activity using NARA’s strategic initiative to preserve and provide long-term access to the electronic records, the Electronic Records Archives. Many agency records management staff now report participating in the design and development of electronic systems and work collaboratively with other units on issues related to electronic records; more than two-thirds of agencies report taking steps to improve the integrity and usability of electronic records, including designating an agency official at the assistant secretary level to take responsibility for records management.

The report comes as agencies face deadlines for electronic records management under the 2012 directive from the Office of Management and Budget and NARA. Agencies are required to develop plans to begin the transition to the electronic management of digital records by the end of 2013 “to ensure transparency, efficiency and accountability.” By the end of 2016, agencies must be managing their email records electronically, using systems that support NARA’s records management requirements. By the end of 2019, agencies will be required to manage permanent electronic records using electronic systems, “to the fullest extent possible.” See the recent AALL advocacy one-pager “Managing Government Records” for more information.

The majority of agencies appear to be on track for the directive’s timetable for the transfer eligible permanent electronic records to NARA, though the report states that “the percentage of agencies answering ‘no,’ particularly in regard to electronic records, remains high.” Only 59 percent of agencies have developed the means to transfer electronic records and metadata to systems that are NARA compliant and allow for information retrieval. Agencies report a lack of coordination between records management and IT staff. Some agencies commented that they do not have the processes in place to identify, capture, or transfer permanent records in either electronic or non-electronic formats.

NARA is moving to rectify the “slow or inconsistent adoption of electronic recordkeeping solutions.” AALL will continue to work with NARA and other federal agencies as they work to comply with the directive and will continue to advocate for adequate funding for NARA so that they may continue to meet the demands of transforming the federal records management for the 21st century. 

August Washington E-Bulletin

August 1, 2013

The August issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.

Vol. 2013, Issue 08





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