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FCW : August 15, 2015
12 August 15, 2015 FCW.COM Even by the admission of the nation’s top federal records officer, many of the issues related to government records management are mundane. “It’s like the lights,” said Paul Wester, a longtime senior executive at the National Archives and Records Adminis- tration who has served as the nation’s first chief records officer since 2011. “They come on, they go off. You press the button, it all works. People expect records to be like that.” When they’re not like that — when, say, a high-profile for- mer secretary of State is revealed to have conducted the entire- ty of her official email correspondence via a private system or when the IRS can’t locate the email archive of an official in hot water with congressional Republicans over a political scandal — it’s Wester who gets irate calls from Capitol Hill. In the summer of 2014, when the IRS email story was at a fever pitch, Wester told a gathering of government records officers, “If you don’t want to have to stand before Congress- man Issa with your hand raised, touching the chin of God, get your email under control.” Now, Wester is getting ready to make his annual speech to agency records officers at the Digital Government Institute’s Records Management Conference on Aug. 26. Although the irascible Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is no longer chairman and chief antagonist on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, government’s electronic recordkeep- ing remains very much in the news, thanks to the Hillary Clinton email story. For Wester, these situations provide more than just a chance to journey to Capitol Hill and sit in the hot seat for a few hours. He’s on the front lines of a governmentwide effort to corral electronic records — first email and then any electronically produced material — into more manageable and enduring shape. Although Wester said he doesn’t concern himself with the political overtones of the records stories, he does find that when email is in the news, it can be something of a teachable moment. “It’s giving records officers and senior agency officials the opportunity to have conversations with people they were never having conversations about regarding these issues,” Wester told FCW in an interview at NARA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. Chief Records Officer Paul Wester would prefer that records management was done right, of course, but the political kerfuffles do offer a teachable moment BY ADAM MAZMANIAN AGENCY EMAIL SCANDALS MAKINGTHEMOSTOF ZAIDHAMID 0815fcw_012-014.indd 12 7/29/15 3:38 PM
July 30, 2015
August 30, 2015