Hurricane Joaquin Threatens East Coast

In advance of Hurricane Joaquin 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 the Hurricane and records recovery operations after the end of the storm, 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 the Hurricane, it may be necessary for your agency to implement a records recovery operation. Water damage will likely be the major records recovery issue. 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 staff monitors the email address and will respond accordingly.

For advice and assistance on other records management issues arising from the storm, 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 John P. Fitzpatrick of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) on 202-357-5205 or via email at

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Capstone GRS Published

We are happy to announce the publication of GRS Transmittal 25 (.pdf), which issues GRS 6.1, Email Managed Under a Capstone Approach. The transmittal only adds new chapter GRS 6.1; all schedules in Transmittal 24 are still current and active.

GRS 6.1 is available only to agencies implementing a Capstone approach to managing email. Agencies choosing to use this GRS must submit a verification form (Form NA-1005) prior to implementation and must disseminate the schedule within 6 months. The form and other information about the GRS is available from this page. Keep in mind some browsers do not support viewing of PDF documents. For best results, it is recommend that Firefox or Internet Explorer be used to open the form, or that the form be downloaded directly from the page.

We will release an online training module on how to fill out the verification form on October 13, 2015. The time between release of this Transmittal and release of this training will ensure that agencies have adequate time to review the GRS, its affiliated FAQ, and the verification form prior to the training. Agency Records Officers should also begin discussing the transmittal of GRS 6.1 with the appropriate agency stakeholders, including the Senior Agency Official (SAO) for Records Management, General Counsel, and Chief Information Officer. The NARA training is not mandatory, but encouraged.  Agencies may begin completing the verification form at any time.

Additional questions to those already included in the FAQ document released with the transmittal:

  1. What does this transmittal provide Federal agencies?

GRS Transmittal 25 publishes GRS 6.1, Email Managed Under a Capstone Approach. GRS 6.1 gives disposition authority for email accounts at agencies adopting a Capstone approach to managing their email. It does not provide disposition authority for other email records management strategies. Agencies may not use GRS 6.1 until the completion and approval of NA-1005, Verification for Implementing GRS 6.1, Email Managed Under a Capstone Approach.

Agencies implementing a Capstone approach must adhere to the definitions provided in this GRS, including the definition of Capstone officials. If an agency cannot adhere to the definitions in the Capstone GRS, the agency must submit an agency-specific schedule.

  1. Why was GRS 6.1 developed?

Acknowledging that the majority of Federal agencies have an interest in adopting a Capstone approach to managing their email, NARA has developed this GRS to provide disposition authority.

The goal of this GRS is to help Federal agencies meet various electronic records management requirements and allow agencies to focus on implementation and the management of their email rather than the process of seeking disposition authority from NARA. For NARA, from a government-wide perspective, this GRS supports NARA’s oversight responsibilities by reducing subjectivity and increasing consistency in the determination of Capstone officials. This GRS establishes a baseline understanding of roles and disposition of email across the government and will reduce the risk of improper implementation.

  1. Where can I learn more information about the Capstone Approach?

Additional information on the general Capstone Approach may be found in Bulletin 2013-02, Guidance on a New Approach to Managing Email Records and in NARA’s White Paper on The Capstone Approach and Capstone GRS .  Information on general email management and more specifics on the Capstone Approach, as well as associated implementation aspects, may also be found on NARA’s email management web page.

For more information, please see the GRS web page. If you have any questions about the GRS, please contact

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New NARA Bulletin on Digital Identity Authentication Records

We are pleased to announce the issuance of NARA Bulletin 2015-03 Guidance on Managing Digital Identity Authentication Records.

This Bulletin provides guidance to agencies on managing digital identity authentication related transactional records, such as digital certificates and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) files, created or used in the course of agency business. It supersedes our earlier records management guidance for PKI digital signature authenticated and secured transaction records.

This Bulletin will not interfere with agencies’ ability to use digital identity authentication measures that meet their business needs. Agencies must remove any digital identity authentication measures, such as passwords or encryption, from permanent records before transfer to NARA. NARA will coordinate the secure transfer of records to NARA with encryption that can be removed upon arrival in NARA.

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Release of NARA Bulletin 2015-02: Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages

We are pleased to announce the issuance of NARA Bulletin 2015-02, Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages.

This Bulletin applies to text messaging, chat/instant messaging, messaging functionality in social media tools or apps, voice messaging, and similar forms of electronic messaging systems. The Bulletin addresses the new definition for electronic messages and other issues covered in the recent amendments to the Federal Records Act. Overall, the Bulletin provides basic records management guidance for electronic messages.

This Bulletin is consistent with the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18) charge to develop a 21st-century framework for managing records. This Bulletin recognizes technology is rapidly changing and employees are using electronic messaging systems to conduct their work. We aim to create guidance agencies can use as the technologies evolve. The rapid evolution of technologies requires agencies to automate records management processes to the fullest extent possible.

A briefing on this Bulletin will be delivered at the August 19 BRIDG meeting. Further information about this meeting will be posted here soon. Please leave any questions and comments you may have.

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Updated RM for Legal Counsel Materials

In May, we presented the updated Records Management for Legal Consul briefing. Video from the two parts of this briefing have now been uploaded on  NARA’s You Tube Channel. A copy of the briefing slides is available as a .pdf.

This program utilizes CART services in place of sign language interpreters. To see the captions, click on the CC logo at the lower right part of the frame.

Below are the videos and the major points in each session.

Records Management for Legal Counsel Part I – Time: 1:25:00

Key points in Federal statutory and regulatory requirements that relate to agency records
Best practices in building a defensible records management program
Counsel’s role in an agency records management program
Challenges and legal issues associated with electronic records

Records Management for Legal Counsel Part II – Time: 1:13:00

Statutory updates from 2014
The role of legal counsel in an agency’s record keeping program
E-Record keeping and E-Discovery
Special Issues
Legal holds on records and the duty of agency counsel

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Release of NARA Bulletin 2015-01

NARA is pleased to announce that we have issued NARA Bulletin 2015-01, Determining the Appropriate Age for Scheduling the Legal Transfer of Permanent Records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

This Bulletin clarifies the appropriate age at which permanent records, regardless of their media or format, should be transferred into NARA’s legal custody. Generally, records should not be scheduled for the legal transfer to NARA before 15 years for unclassified records and 25 years for classified records. This bulletin is associated with a new scheduling aid, Checklist for Proposing the Early Legal Transfer of Permanent Records. The checklist is a tool to help agencies and NARA staff determine if the records are appropriate for legal transfer before 15 years.

NARA Bulletins provide fundamental guidance to Federal agencies who must then determine the most appropriate ways to incorporate the guidance into their work.

A briefing on this Bulletin will be delivered at the August BRIDG meeting. Please leave any questions and comments you may have. Thank you.

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Open Gov Plan 3.0

Later this year, the U.S. Government will publish the third National Open Government Action Plan (NAP). This will build on the prior action plans published in 2011 and 2013. Our efforts to improve the management of government records, through things like the Managing Government Records Directive, have been included in these previous plans.

Now, we are soliciting input on this effort from our stakeholders. Please read this post from the Open Government Initiative to see how you can get involved. We look forward to your suggestions and getting them in the next version of the National Open Government Action Plan.

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Flexible Retentions in the GRS

Here is the next tip from our GRS Team. 

Flexible retentions in the GRS: Your new best friend

Many new GRS disposition instructions look like this:  “Destroy when 3 years old, but longer retention is authorized if required for business use.”  Some reviewers have criticized us for this latitude, and recommended that we state a specific retention period (in the above case, 3 years), then stop.  They object to the elastic clause.  Here’s what we bet is at the bottom of these objections, and why we believe flexibility is really in agencies’ best interests.

We suspect the main objection to retention flexibility is a fear that offices outside the direct sight lines of an agency’s records management function will abuse “longer retention is authorized” as license to never discard anything ever again.  If our guess just tapped into the primal root of your own objection to flexible retention, we have good news.  Flexible retention really is the agency records officer’s new best friend.  If a GRS item has an elastic disposition, as long as you retain records for the minimum time required, you can do one of three things:

  1. You can determine how long your agency has business use for the records. Answering the question  “how long is enough?” is more work than pulling a number out of a hat, and less entertaining than throwing darts at a dartboard, but conversation with subject area experts should get you to a good, defensible answer.  Once you’ve determined the right time period for your agency in excess of the minimum in the GRS, you can publish it without the flexible elastic clause in your records manual and cite the GRS item as your authority.
  1. You can determine that your agency will do just fine with the minimum retention period in the GRS, and not a day longer. Use the GRS item in your agency manual without the flexible elastic clause and cite the GRS item as your authority.
  1. You can do nothing. Let individual offices in your agency determine their own business needs.  We can’t recommend this as a best practice, but we acknowledge it as an option.

And the good news mentioned above?  Did you notice that in all three of these options you do not have to process a records schedule through NARA or ask for a GRS exception?  You have the authority to make choices to best suit your agency.  We think that’s very good news indeed.

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