Many of our readers may have seen recent items in the news media, social media or on listservs that make it seem like the Department of the Interior is making an unusual request to destroy Federal Records. We have been busily responding to inquiries about this schedule from individuals and the press for a few days. Those of you who work in records management understand the records scheduling process, but to others, this process can seem mysterious.
In this specific instance, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has NOT made any requests to immediately destroy large numbers of records. They have put in a normal request to consolidate and revise their previous records schedules into “big buckets.” This proposed schedule consolidates 400 items to facilitate implementation and intellectual control at DOI and includes permanent and temporary items. NARA and the DOI have been working on this schedule for more than two years.
Following our normal process, notification of this schedule was posted in the Federal Register. We are currently in the public comment period. Due to the increased interest in this schedule, and to promote greater transparency and public comment on the DOI request, we have extended this period until November 26, 2018. We have also posted .pdf versions of the proposed records schedule, our appraisal memo, and the related big-bucket crosswalk.
Some outlets have stated that once permanent records are transferred to the National Archives, they become less accessible to the public. One of the main reasons for the existence of the National Archives is to make government records accessible. We maintain extensive support systems for researchers at all of our facilities and are making more documents accessible online every day. Thousands of interest groups and individuals search our holdings every year for information on anything from their own military service to actions taken by the federal government hundreds of years ago.
In summary, although we encourage comments on proposed schedules, we do want commentators to understand the normal revision process of old, complex, department-wide retention schedules of which this Department of Interior schedule is a reflection. Many agencies have gone through the process of modernizing their older schedules into “big bucket” schedules over the last several years, and this process, in and of itself, does not result in imminent destruction or loss of access to historically valuable records.
December 2020 update: Revisions to this proposed schedule, based on the thousands of comments we received, are still being negotiated with DOI. Once complete, the revised records schedule, crosswalk, appraisal memo, and consolidated reply will be published to the Federal Register for another round of public comment.