House Hearing on Executive Branch Electronic Communications Preservation

April 23, 2008

The House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives will hold a hearing today to address the Electronic Communications Preservation Act (H.R. 5811), sponsored by Chairman of the Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA-30), Chairman of the Subcommittee Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1), and Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH-2). The bill directs the Archivist of the United States to establish standards for the capture, management, retrieval, and preservation of White House e-mails and other electronic communications. The Committee’s Press Release, summary of the bill, and full text of the bill is available here.

Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, will testify about the state of the preservation of electronic records and the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) oversight responsibilities. OpenTheGovernment.org recently assisted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with data collection for their new report, “Record Chaos: The Deplorable State of Electronic Record Keeping in the Federal Government.” Findings of the report include: federal agencies are not keeping up with modern electronic records management methods; there is widespread confusion among federal employees about their obligations regarding record keeping; and there is a lack of meaningful oversight of the agencies by NARA.

This hearing was originally scheduled for April 16, but canceled at the last minute. Assuming the witness list stays the same, the witnesses will include:

The Honorable Allen Weinstein
Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration

Dr. Anna K. Nelson
Director
American University – Department of History

Witness to be announced
Government Accountability Office

Patrice McDermott
Director
OpenTheGovernment.org

The hearing will take place at 2pm in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building. According to Committee staff, a live webcast should be available on the Committee website.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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E-Government Reauthorization Moving in the Senate

January 31, 2008

On December 11, 2007, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S. 2321). The legislation, introduced one month earlier by Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), would reauthorize the E-Government Act of 2002 and add a provision to improve the searchability of government websites.

I attended the hearing, E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration, and Access”. The hearing explored three topics, as introduced by Chairman Lieberman: how close the government has come to reaching the goal of the E-Government Act of 2002; the problem of the searchability of government websites; and how new collaborative technologies can strengthen interaction among government agencies and the public. Witnesses included Karen S. Evans [testimony] , Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology within the Office of Management and Budget; John Lewis Needham [testimony], Manager of Public Sector Content Partnerships at Google; Ari Schwartz [testimony], Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT); and Jimmy Wales [testimony], Founder of Wikipedia. CDT and OMB Watch released a report, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found Through Commercial Search Engines,” addressing the problems of searchability of government websites.

At the hearing, Chairman Lieberman also introduced S.RES.401 to provide the public with access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) publications online. CRS is the non-partisan public policy research arm of Congress and produces reports for members of Congress on legislative issues. Constituents may request reports from their representatives. Several non-profit groups (through Open CRS ) and academic sites have been offering access to selected reports (see Guide to CRS Reports on the Web), but this resolution would provide expanded, comprehensive, and free access to these reports. We support this measure, along with the E-Government Reauthorization bill.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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