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.