Documenting Your Public Service

We are pleased to publish an update to Documenting Your Public Service. This guide provides information describing the responsibilities all government employees must follow for managing federal records. It is important for agencies to ensure employees are aware of their records management responsibilities, especially as we approach the upcoming Presidential transition.

We will be developing additional guidance related to the transition in the coming months. Our next products will directly relate to records management responsibilities for political appointees and other high level government officials.

We will also develop model onboarding and offboarding records management checklists. We ask that if agencies have similar checklists to share, please email them to Christopher Magee at christopher.magee@nara.gov.

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Making Use of GRS Crosswalks

The following post is from the GRS Team.

New schedules published in General Records Schedule (GRS) Transmittals are not one-to-one replacements of old schedules.  Crosswalks provide temporary bridges to help agencies understand what has changed in the GRS and how to convert superseded authorities to new authorities.  Once the new GRS is completed and in place long enough for agencies to use it with agility, the importance of these crosswalks will diminish.  Eventually, they will no longer be needed at all.  But right now, they are your key to understanding the full scope of change.

Two types of GRS crosswalks trace conversion from both ends of the equation: old-to-new and new-to-old.  Crosswalks attached to each new schedule compare new items to old ones.  These list new items on the left and old (superseded) items on the right.  Going the opposite direction is a single crosswalk tracking old-to-new conversion (.pdf) for the entire old GRS.  It shows old items on the left, and superseding new items on the right.

How to read a crosswalk

Each “side” of the crosswalk contains schedule and item numbers, an abbreviated retention statement, and the legal authority for the disposition.  See this annotated pdf for details on how the two sides match up.

How to make use of crosswalk information

  1. Use crosswalks to update your agency records disposition manual. If your manual imports GRS items verbatim, you need to know when they have been superseded.  Use crosswalks to search for and identify superseded GRS items and update your manual with current, authoritative information.
  1. Use crosswalks to update your agency records disposition manual. If you reference GRS disposition authorities or have approved deviations to GRS items, you need to determine if those GRS items have been superseded by a new GRS transmittal.  This is particularly true if your agency uses big-bucket schedules.  Big buckets frequently incorporate records covered by the GRS into larger units for simplicity of scheduling.  Remember that NARA requires you to inform it within 120 days of each new GRS transmittal if you intend to continue using your approved big-bucket items based on old GRS items instead of newly published items superseding those old items on which your bucket item was based.  Here’s where to look for links between agency items and GRS items.
  • If your agency has an approved deviation to the GRS, the superseded GRS item(s) should appear on your approved schedule (SF-115 or equivalent) under superseded authorities.
  • If you have a big-bucket schedule, supersession of GRS items should appear in its crosswalk as well as in the schedule under superseded authorities.
  • If your agency manual includes items drawn directly from the GRS but incorporated into your manual for ease of one-stop shopping, check your manual for items whose authority is the GRS item. Agency records disposition manuals should cite the underlying disposition authority for the records, including GRS disposition authorities.

Updating disposition authorities and manuals will likely prove time consuming, particularly if your agency has not updated its manual in several years.  The GRS Team wants your experience to be as painless as possible and stands ready to help.  If you have any questions on how to do this comparison or why we mapped items to certain schedules, please contact us at GRS_Team@nara.gov.

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Widespread Flooding May Threaten Records

Once again nature is threatening large parts of the country. This time large areas, including the Midwest and California but other areas as well, are experiencing unprecedented flooding.  We remind Agency Records Officers that NARA posts records emergency information and other useful guidance in order for them to pass along this information to other agency personnel.

For advice and assistance on preparing before a flood happens, and records recovery operations afterward, please refer to the preservation section of our website. Here, you will find a section on preparation and several sections about records recovery processes.

Depending on the damage caused by flooding, it may be necessary for your agency to implement a records recovery operation. Water damage alone can cause major records recovery issues but often floodwaters contain a variety of contaminants as well. The web page also includes a template (.pdf) for contracting for records recovery services and a list of records recovery vendors. This list of vendors is provided by NARA for informational purposes. Inclusion on the list should not be viewed as an endorsement of the quality of the vendor’s services.

NARA staff members are available to provide additional information and guidance.

For advice on records recovery issues, please contact the Preservation Programs Division at preservation@nara.gov. Preservation staff monitors the email address and will respond accordingly.

For advice and assistance on other records management issues arising from the flooding, including to report on the emergency destruction of records under 36 CFR1229.10 or the loss of records under 36 CFR1230.14, please contact the appraisal archivist assigned to your agency. Please see this list of agency staff assignments and points of contact.

For advice and assistance on issues concerning classified national security information, please contact William (Bill) Cira of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) on 202-357-5323 or via email at william.cira@nara.gov.

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Agency Participants Needed for Electronic Messages Research

A team within the Office of the Chief Records Officer is in the process of conducting follow-up research to NARA Bulletin 2015-02: Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages. The Bulletin provides records management guidance for electronic messages, including text messaging and chat/instant messaging.

Has your agency begun discussing how you are approaching the management of electronic messages? NARA would like to talk to agencies about how they are managing electronic messages. We are interested in policies governing the use and management of electronic messaging; best practices; and examples of training or tip sheets. This research will inform future guidance products and potential GRS items.

If you are interested in setting up a meeting with the team, please contact Bethany Cron, Records Management Policy and Program Support Team, at Bethany.Cron@nara.gov no later than January 20, 2016.

Thank you for your help!

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Update on FAR and GRS

In AC 31.2015, we discussed the fact that the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) had not yet caught up with General Records Schedule (GRS) 1.1, published September 2014 in GRS Transmittal 23.  This resulted in the FAR and the GRS stating different retention periods for records.

We are pleased to announce that these necessary alterations to the FAR were published as a final rule in the Federal Register on December 4, 2015.  The new rule is effective January 4, 2016.  We appreciate the work of the FAR Implementation Team comprised of GSA, DoD, and NASA representatives bringing this to fruition.  The unfortunate disconnect between the GRS and the FAR is now history.  Both authorities once again state the same retention periods for records.

And we would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a great 2016!

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Release of 2014 SAO Report Summary

We are pleased to announce we have completed a review of the 2014 Senior Agency Official (SAO) Reports. The results have been issued in a Summary Report available here (.pdf). These reports cover activities in agencies during calendar year 2014.

Acting Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government, Laurence Brewer, said “The report provides important information on the progress agencies are making in meeting the targets of the Managing Government Records Directive. In particular, two of the pivotal targets, managing all agency email in electronic format by the end of 2016 and managing all permanent electronic records in an electronic format by the end of 2019, are important features in this year’s report.  Senior Agency Officials are reporting they are making progress towards those targets.”

The analysis of the 2014 SAO Reports showed that:

  • An overwhelming majority of SAOs (93%) reported they would meet the email target by the due date of the end of 2016
  • SAOs (87%) reported they are exploring ways to manage permanent electronic records in an electronic format by the end of 2019
  • A number of agencies are exploring the Capstone Approach for managing email
  • Agencies are addressing records management training. The vast majority of agencies reported making substantial progress in implementing records management training methods for all staff. Further, many agency records officers have already obtained NARA’s Certificate of Federal Records Management Training
  • Agencies are seeking assistance from NARA regarding how to successfully implement the Directive. In particular, smaller agencies cite limited resources and personnel as challenges they face in successfully meeting electronic records requirements
  • Agencies are using commercially available software products. Many software products were mentioned, and agencies indicate they are using existing, commercial products instead of developing their own.

Several weeks ago, we sent agencies information about the current 2015 reporting cycle. Agencies have until January 29, 2016 to submit their information.

If you have any questions about the SAO reporting process, please leave a comment or contact PRMD@nara.gov.

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Chief Records Officer Position Posted

We wanted to alert the records management community that the Chief Records Officer (CRO) position has been posted on USA Jobs. From the position description: “The CRO leads records management throughout the Federal Government, with an emphasis on electronic records, and assesses the effectiveness of Federal records management policies and programs.”

The position is open until Tuesday, December 22. Please spread far and wide as we search for a new CRO!

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RMSA 2014 released

We are pleased to announce that the 2014 Records Management-Self Assessment (RMSA) report is now available from our website (.pdf).

Acting Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government Laurence Brewer said, “This is our sixth RMSA and we are very pleased to see real progress being made by agencies. We expect this improvement to continue, especially as agencies continue to work towards achieving the goals in the Managing Government Records Directive.”

Some highlights from 2014 data include:

  • Forty-one percent of agencies made improvements to their records management programs and increased their RMSA score.
  • RMSA findings and recommendations are consistent with the goals and requirements of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and NARA Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18). We believe that improvement will continue as the requirements of the Directive are implemented and as NARA’s records management oversight activities persist.
  • Agencies have policies and procedures in place for email, but there is little or no auditing for compliance.
  • A majority of agencies are planning to implement the Capstone approach for managing their email.

NARA uses this annual self-assessment to determine whether Federal agencies are compliant with statutory and regulatory records management requirements, identify positive and negative trends, and areas where further guidance may be necessary.

Federal agencies use the annual self-assessment to identify strong and weak areas of their records management programs and determine the impact of changes they have made since the previous self-assessment.

As a whole, the data can be used to improve records management practices within the Federal Government.

If you have any questions regarding the RMSA, please feel free to leave a comment here on the blog or send an email to rmselfassessment@nara.gov

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Expiration Date Bulletin Released

We have released NARA Bulletin 2016-01: Guidance on NARA Bulletin Expiration Dates. This administrative bulletin announces a change to our policy regarding the expiration date of bulletins.

Every bulletin used to have an expiration date of three years. We would regularly review the bulletins to determine whether the policies were still relevant, accurate, and useful. Then, we would issue an annual bulletin stating which ones were still in effect. This caused confusion regarding the status of our bulletins.

Now, our bulletins will no longer have specific expiration dates, unless there is a valid reason based on the content. Bulletins will say “Expires when revoked or superseded.”

We have updated the expiration date on all bulletins that are still in effect to reflect this new policy. These changes can be seen on our bulletins page. Several bulletins had been superseded and we have moved those to the Past NARA Bulletins section of our website. We will continue to regularly review bulletins to ensure their accuracy and usefulness.

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Open Government National Action Plan 3.0

The White HoScreen Shot of the Cover of the Third Open Government National Action Planuse announced the release of the Third Open Government National Action Plan for the United States of America  earlier this week. The release of the Plan was timed to coincide with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) global summit taking place in Mexico City. You may recall that earlier this year, a call went out for public input to the plan.

This National Action Plan (NAP) has more than 40 new or expanded initiatives to advance open government across federal agencies, including the National Archives. As in the previous two action plans, the critical role records management plays in support of open government is highlighted.

The NAP includes three targets specific to records management and consistent with the ongoing work our office is doing to support the implementation of the Managing Government Records Directive. These are: creating a public dataset of government officials emails scheduled for permanent retention under a Capstone approach, the ongoing reporting of progress being made by agencies towards the Directive’s 2016 email target, and holding a public meeting to solicit feedback for improving our Records Control Schedule repository.

Stay tuned as we continue to report our progress on these three important goals and all of our work to modernize the management of federal records. Please review this post by the Archivist for more information about these commitments and the others for the National Archives.

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