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United States

Improving Government Records (US0065)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Open Data, Public Participation, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

The backbone of a transparent and accountable government is strong records management. Modernization of records management improves performance and promotes openness and accountability by better documenting the actions and decisions of the Federal government. The Managing Government Records Directive requires agencies to manage all of their email in electronic form by the end of 2016. To support these requirements and expand upon them, the United States will: ● Increase Transparency in Managing Email. The National Archives and Records Administration will release a public dataset of positions of government officials whose email will come to the National play a significant role in the permitting, review, funding, and
development of large-scale infrastructure project
Archives for permanent preservation under the Capstone approach. This dataset will increase transparency and accountability in the recordkeeping process, while facilitating public participation in the ongoing dialogue over records that document key actions, policies, and decisions of the Federal government.
● Report on Agency Progress in Managing Email. The National Archives will also introduce targeted questions regarding email management to agencies through new and existing reporting mechanisms, and will report publicly on agencies’ progress, allowing stakeholders to track progress on agencies’ email management efforts.
● Improve the Records Control Schedule Repository. The National Archives currently posts information about recordkeeping time frames in a records control schedule repository. The Archives will seek feedback from civil society to improve access to the data contained within this repository.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 13. Improve Government Records

Commitment Text:

Improve Management of Government Records

The backbone of a transparent and accountable government is strong records management. Modernization of records management improves performance and promotes openness and accountability by better documenting the actions and decisions of the Federal government. The Managing Government Records Directive requires agencies to manage all of their email in electronic form by the end of 2016. To support these requirements and expand upon them, the United States will:

  • Increase Transparency in Managing Email. The National Archives and Records Administration will release a public dataset of positions of government officials whose email will come to the National Archives for permanent preservation under the Capstone approach. This dataset will increase transparency and accountability in the recordkeeping process, while facilitating public participation in the ongoing dialogue over records that document key actions, policies, and decisions of the Federal government.
  • Report on Agency Progress in Managing Email. The National Archives will also introduce targeted questions regarding email management to agencies through new and existing reporting mechanisms, and will report publicly on agencies’ progress, allowing stakeholders to track progress on agencies’ email management efforts.
  • Improve the Records Control Schedule Repository. The National Archives currently posts information about recordkeeping time frames in a records control schedule repository. The Archives will seek feedback from civil society to improve access to the data contained within this repository.

Responsible Institution: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Supporting Institutions: Civil society organizations

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

Prior to the action plan, the government produced billions of emails that were filed and preserved in different ways, both digitally and in paper form. [151] This commitment aimed to improve the federal government’s management of email records. The government committed to:

  • Release a dataset containing the names of government positions whose emails will be preserved at the National Archives,
  • Report on agencies’ email management efforts, and
  • Seek input from civil society to improve access to recordkeeping time frames contained in the Records Control Schedule repository.

Status

Midterm: Limited

By the midterm, the government had made limited overall progress on this commitment:

  • The National Archives published a list of government officials whose emails would be preserved on its website. The list was issued under the September 2016 “General Records Schedule (GRS) 6.1: Email Managed under a Capstone Approach”. [152] However, per the government’s midterm self-assessment report, [153] the list was incomplete. It contained only information for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Security Agency. Milestone 13.1 completion was thus limited.
  • NARA updated the template for the Senior Agency Official for Records Management Annual Reports to include questions on email management. It also began tracking responses across agencies. [154] NARA tracks and analyzes this information publicly on an annual basis in its Records Management Self-Assessment final report. [155] Milestone 13.2 was therefore complete.
  • By the close of the midterm reporting period, NARA had not yet sought feedback from civil society on the Records Control Schedule repository. [156] Thus, there was no progress on Milestone 13.3.

End of Term: Substantial

Progress on this commitment was substantial at the end of term:

  • Under General Records Schedule (GRS) 6.1, the National Archives and Records Administration published a list of 72 distinct agencies from which emails will be sent to the National Archives. These emails will be preserved via an online repository housed on the National Archives website. [157] For the offices within each agency that are subject to GRS 6.1, the repository includes a link to their active, approved verification forms NA-1005s in PDF format. The forms indicate a list of officials whose emails will be preserved. The list includes officials’ position titles, and each office’s summary page indicates the number of unique email accounts subject to preservation. [158] In light of these activities, the IRM assesses Milestone 13.1 as complete.
  • Milestone 13.2 was complete at the midterm.
  • Based on publicly available information, the IRM researcher found no evidence that the government has begun to engage civil society on the Records Control Schedule repository. Thus, there is no progress on Milestone 13.3.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

This commitment marginally opened government with respect to access to information and did not change government with respect to civic participation. The main change in government policy has been providing public access to information on agency officials whose emails will be preserved and information on how government agencies manage email. These steps lay the groundwork for future preservation of the government’s electronic records. However, little progress has been made in transferring actual electronic records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for preservation.

The public now has access to a centralized list of 72 agencies submitting emails to the National Archives for preservation, comprising a far larger number of federal officials. The National Archives’ Office of the Chief Records Officer produces a Federal Agency Records Management 2016 Annual Report from 20 September 2017, however, notes that only 32 percent of agencies (based on a total sample of 257) submitted NA-1005s in 2016 (up from 2 at the midterm). This highlights the substantial work that remains to be carried out under General Records Schedule 6.1. [159]

This same report notes that a plurality of agencies (42 percent) have drafted—but not yet approved —records retention schedules applicable to email. Only 19 percent of agencies attain the highest category of email records management. [160] Moreover, 81 percent of reporting agencies had not yet begun transferring permanent electronic records to NARA for preservation.

Collectively, these figures highlight the commitment’s importance. However, they also indicate significant areas for future progress regarding federal electronic records management. Therefore, this commitment has an overall coding of marginal.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not yet published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The government could nevertheless pursue efforts to preserve emails. It could also seek to improve deposition rates among agencies that have not yet submitted NA-1005s or transferred records to the National Archives. The government should also engage with civil society on the Records Control Schedule repository and continue reporting efforts to monitor agencies’ progress on improving email management.

[151] David S. Ferriero, “Managing Those Emails,” Prologue Magazine 47, no. 2 (2015), http://bit.ly/2eqSzOY.

[152] National Archives and Records Administration, “General Records Schedule (GRS) 6.1: Email Managed under a Capstone Approach,” September 2016, https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/grs/grs06-1.pdf, consulted 28 September 2017.

[153] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 14, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.

[154] “2015 SAO Annual Reports,” National Archives and Records Administration, https://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/agency/sao-reporting-2015, last updated 28 June 2016, consulted 3 October 2017. The template is available for download via National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Chief Records Officer, Senior Agency Official for Records Management FY 2015 Annual Report, http://bit.ly/2r0jWcc, consulted 3 October 2017.

[155] “Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA),” National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Chief Records Officer, https://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/resources/self-assessment.html. See page 15 of the 2015 report in particular: National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Chief Records Officer, Records Management Self-Assessment 2015: An Assessment of Records Management Programs in the Federal Government, 12 July 2016, https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/resources/self-assessment-2015.pdf, consulted 3 October 2017.

[156] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 14–15, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 3 October 2017.

[157] As indicated on NARA’s website, emails will be preserved from 103 agency offices. However, as some agencies have multiple offices that are subject to GRS 6.1, this activity covers a smaller number of distinct agencies (72). See “General Records Schedule (GRS) 6.1 Email Managed under a Capstone Approach,” National Archives and Records Administration, http://usnationalarchives.github.io/capstone-grs/index.html#about, consulted 28 September 2017.

[158] Ibid.

[159] National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Chief Records Officer, Federal Agency Records Management 2016 Annual Report. 20 September 2017, 22–23, https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/resources/Federal%20Agency%20Records%20Management%20-%202016%20Annual%20Report.pdf, consulted 28 September 2017. This is the most recent publicly available report. The figures cited here also highlight a discrepancy in that roughly 82 agencies (i.e., 32 percent) submitted NA-1005s, whereas forms from only 72 agencies appear in the NARA’s repository listing. The reason for this discrepancy is unclear, though the discrepancy is minor.

[160] Ibid., 11–12. This category includes agencies that meet the following criteria: possess a “NARA-approved records retention schedules covering emails; records retention are built into email management systems; permanent records are identified and captured by email management systems; [and] permanent records can be or have been successfully transferred to NARA.”


Commitments

Open Government Partnership