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FCW : August 15, 2014
August 15, 2014 FCW.COM 23 When President Barack Obama signed a memorandum on the management of government records in November 2011, some touted it as the rst sig- ni cant action in that area since Harry Truman signed the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act in 1949 and the Federal Records Act in 1950. More than six decades and 7 billion network devices later, the problem of how and what to archive among the piles of federal records --- 4.75 billion pages in the past 10 years, according to the National Archives and Records Administration --- has gained operational and political currency. The often arcane conversation about record storage was pushed into the spotlight recently when the Internal Revenue Service was unable to produce about two years worth of email messages from for- mer IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner and six other employees because of what the agency called a hard- ware crash. How on earth could email be lost because of hardware malfunctions, critics asked, particularly in an admin- istration that is the rst in decades to spend any serious time thinking about records management? That particular answer is yet to be revealed. But although many agen- cies have been adopting strategies to manage their records electronically, the events at the IRS demonstrate, at best, a startling disconnect between policy and implementation. This is not the rst time govern- ment email messages have mysteri- ously vanished. In 2007, the George W. Bush administration claimed to have lost email having to do with the dismissal of U.S. attorneys. A similar disappearance happened in 2000 during the Clinton administration. Those instances, however, predat- ed the institution of federal policies intended to bring records management into the 21st century. Obama s 2011 memo and a directive by the Of ce of Management and Budget and NARA in 2012 created strict guidelines and dead- lines for agencies electronic records management. According to the memo, agencies must maintain all email records in an electronic format --- no more printing and storing --- by the end of 2016. By the end of 2019, all permanent elec- tronic records held by federal agencies must be managed electronically to the fullest extent possible. Currently, many agencies limit indi- vidual employees capacity for elec- tronic email storage. When an employ- ee reaches that limit, he or she has to determine what quali es as a record that must be saved. It sounds simple enough, though somewhat time-consuming. But according to April Chen, federal product manager at records manage- ment rm Iron Mountain, there are as many as 500 retention categories in NARA s General Records Schedules. As Meg Phillips, external affairs liaison at NARA, put it at a Govern- ment IT Forum in Washington late last year, "the scale of electronic records being created requires more individual decisions than users can be reasonably expected to process in a manual way." At the Interior Department, eRecords Service Manager John Montel said the hardest part for many agencies is guring out what records they have. To help with that, Interior s Records Manage- ment Of ce is working with NARA on a system that can index and col- late records using algorithms and then automatically lter and le them. In addition, Interior is the rst Cabinet-level agency to put its records management system in the cloud. Its Email, Enterprise Records and Document Management System is designed to handle documents and other data that support the depart- ment s programs. Those les are stored in OpenText format in a cloud managed by the IQ Business Group. Keeping agencies honest Members of Congress and the general public were clearly frustrated with the apparent lack of transparency demon- strated by the IRS. "These are answers we don t yet have because --- surprise, surprise --- a few computers crashed," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said last month in the wake of the revelations. "Plot lines in Although many agencies have been developing and adopting strategies to manage their records electronically, the scandal surrounding former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner's emails has revealed a gaping chasm between policy and implementation BY COLBY HOCHMUTH "Plot lines in Hollywood are more believable." --- REP. DAVE CAMP AP IMAGES
July 30, 2014
August 30, 2014