Review of Accessioned Email

NARA is receiving more schedules and NA-1005 forms for Federal Records Act (FRA) email scheduled under a Capstone approach, raising questions about how we screen permanent email for public access and what agencies and requesters can expect when having access to these records.

While we have taken legal custody of a number of Federal agency email records to date, we have also accessioned large volumes of emails from the White House under the Presidential Records Act (PRA) since the Reagan administration. Email use has increased with each subsequent administration, from 20 million PRA emails generated by the Clinton administration to 300 million PRA emails from the Obama administration. NARA also accessions the FRA emails from the Federal components of the Executive Office of the President.

This process has given us significant experience preserving and providing public access to email collections with sensitive information, including protecting personal privacy information by applying FOIA exemption (b)(6).

Generally, Federal agency emails will not be transferred to us until they are between 15 and 25 years old. We have issued an FAQ with information on how to calculate transfer dates.

When an agency initiates a transfer of permanent email, the Agency Records Officer must indicate any FOIA exemptions that might apply on the request to transfer records to the National Archives.  

NARA archivists conduct a careful review to determine what information can be released and what can be withheld under an applicable FOIA exemption when they process closed records for public access.

Note, however, NARA generally does not apply FOIA exemption (b)(5) to archival records, which, in any event, now expires after 25 years for information subject to the deliberative process privilege.  We also do not  consult with the originating agency when releasing unclassified records.

Posted in Email Management 2.0 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

April BRIDG Meeting Recap

Tuesday’s Bimonthly Records and Information Discussion Group (BRIDG) meeting was attended in-person and online by about 200 records management professionals.

Attendees commented that this meeting was very educational. We had a full schedule of informative speakers.

The presentation slides can be accessed as a here. You can watch (or rewatch!) the entire meeting below.

If you have any suggestions for discussion topics, or want to make a presentation yourself, please contact me at

Posted in General

Agency Records Management Reports Posted

Yesterday, April 6th, NARA issued a press release about the 2016 records management reporting period. You can read the full press release here.

Our office is posting the Senior Agency Official for Records Management (SAORM) Reports and Federal Email Management Reports online.

These two reports focus on how agencies are meeting the goals of the Managing Government Records Directive. In addition, NARA receives Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA) reports, which provide an overview of each agency’s general records management program.

Preliminary data shows that the majority of agencies are managing their email electronically, but improvements are needed to be fully compliant with NARA’s success criteria for managing email records. We are continuing our efforts to ensure full reporting data is collected and analyzed to better understand how effectively the Federal government is managing its records and information.

Posted in Presidential Memorandum | Tagged , , ,

Release of Records Management Contract Language

We are pleased to announce that the Records Management Contract Language has been updated on our records management website. NARA has long-provided sample language to use in contracts. This update reflects changes in the way Government creates and manages records and current legal obligations.

Federal agencies need to determine what Federal records management requirements should be included in their contracts. Federal contractors often create, send, or receive Federal records. Contracts should provide clear legal obligations describing how the contract employees must handle Federal records.

This language should not replace specific records management requirements included within Federal information system contracts.

If you have any questions about this language, please contact

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Records Management Priorities for 2017

Earlier this week, the Archivist of the United States sent a memorandum to Senior Agency Officials for Records Management (SAORM) and agency records officers. The memo reminds them of their federal records and information management responsibilities and specifically addresses three high visibility priorities for 2017:

  • electronic messaging and encrypted messages;
  • managing web records; and
  • ensuring that all staff, especially incoming political appointees, are properly trained on their responsibilities for records management.

SAORMs and agency records officers work together to ensure agencies comply with all records management requirements and effectively manage their records. Good records management helps agencies efficiently meet their mission responsibilities and identify permanently valuable records that will one day come to the National Archives.

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Records Management Training Opportunities in April

Spring is a great time to earn NARA’s Certificate of Records Management by enrolling in our Knowledge Area (KA) courses.  We offer a Certificate of Federal Records Management Training to individuals who successfully complete Knowledge Area courses 2-6 and pass exams associated with each course. Upon completion of the courses and exams, participants will receive a Certificate signed by the Archivist of the United States.

We also offer specialty and overview courses like Vital Business Information, Electronic Records Management and Basic Records Operations (BRO).

Training is offered online, in College Park, MD, Washington, DC and select locations across the country.

Click here to view the course catalog or to register online.

NARA Course offerings in April

Date(s) Course Name Location
Day 1 Day 2
4/5/2017 Basic Records Operations Online
4/12/2017 Basic Records Operations Online
4/19/2017 Basic Records Operations Online
4/26/2017 Basic Records Operations Online
4/3/2017 KA1 – Records Management Overview College Park
4/4/2017 4/5/2017 KA2 – Creating and Maintaining Agency Business Information College Park
4/6/2017 4/7/2017 KA3 – Records Scheduling College Park
4/10/2017 4/11/2017 KA4 – Records Schedule Implementation College Park
4/12/2017 Vital Business Information College Park
4/13/2017 4/14/2017 KA5 – Asset and Risk Management College Park
4/17/2017 KA6 – Records Management Program Development College Park
4/18/2017 4/19/2017 Electronic Records Management College Park
4/4/2017 Basic Records Operations Ellenwood GA
4/5/2017 4/6/2017 Electronic Records Management Ellenwood GA
4/10/2017 Basic Records Operations New Orleans
4/11/2017 4/12/2017 Electronic Records Management New Orleans
4/13/2017 Vital Business Information New Orleans
4/3/2017 Basic Records Operations Norfolk, VA
4/4/2017 4/5/2017 KA2 – Creating and Maintaining Agency Business Information Norfolk, VA
4/6/2017 4/7/2017 KA3 – Records Scheduling Norfolk, VA
4/10/2017 4/11/2017 KA4 – Records Schedule Implementation Norfolk, VA
4/12/2017 4/13/2017 KA5 – Asset and Risk Management Norfolk, VA
4/14/2017 KA6 – Records Management Program Development Norfolk, VA
4/17/2017 4/18/2017 KA4 – Records Schedule Implementation San Bruno CA
4/19/2017 4/20/2017 KA5 – Asset and Risk Management San Bruno CA
4/21/2017 KA6 – Records Management Program Development San Bruno CA

Knowledge Area Certificate Track Course Descriptions

KA2 What are Federal records management requirements, why are they important, and how are they applied to agency records?  This course focuses on the development and implementation of policies and procedures for adequate and proper documentation of agency business.  It demonstrates how record keeping requirements for creating and maintaining records can improve the economy and efficiency of agency operations.  Course length:  2 days.  Cost: $300.00.

KA3 What do you do with information and records that you no longer need for business purposes? How you schedule your records determines the basis for meeting your agency’s operating, fiscal, and legal needs. This course includes the legal requirements and practical advantages in scheduling records as well as the disposition practices necessary to meet an agency’s business needs and NARA’s recordkeeping requirements. Course length:  2 days.  Cost: $300.00.

KA4 How do you ensure the proper disposition of your agency’s records? This course provides an overview of how to apply the General Records Schedules and other NARA-approved records schedules to Federal records. It covers the key elements of a records disposition program, including the destruction of temporary records, the transfer of records to off-site storage, and the transfer of permanent records to the National Archives. Course length:  2 days. Cost: $300.00.

KA5 Records provide essential support to our agency business processes, and the strategies we use to manage the risks to those records can also help us manage risks to the organization. This course covers the fundamental risk management and cost benefit analysis concepts records managers need as they build and maintain effective records management programs. The course raises awareness of risk situations and provides records managers with decision-making tools they can use to address current and future program needs. Course length:  2 days.  Cost:  $300.00.

KA6 How effective is your agency’s Records Management Program? This course covers the concepts and practices involved in planning and implementing a successful records management program and subsequent evaluations. You will learn how to market and promote your program, including the development of a training program for all levels of agency staff. Course length:  1 day.  Cost:  $150.00

Overview and Specialty Course Descriptions

KA1 Records are valuable agency resources and business assets.  This course provides an overview of the purpose, concepts and activities of managing Federal records. A high-level overview appropriate for those in managerial positions, the course focuses on record keeping roles, and how records management cuts across organizational lines. It introduces participants to new skills which are needed for records management in the 21st century.  Course length:  1 day. This course is not required for the NARA Certificate of Records Management.  Cost: $150.00.

Basic Records Operations (BRO) This course describes what to file, how to file it, and how to remove files no longer needed for current business. It covers the variety of activities involved in the maintenance and use, as well as the disposition, of Federal records. It presents practical how-to’s in handling records of various types.  Course length:  1 day. Cost:  $150.00.

Vital Business Information (VBI) This course provides the knowledge and skills required to identify, protect, and make readily available the vital records needed to support the resumption of critical business functions after a disaster, and to establish and administer a vital records program. The course is based on the vital record requirements contained in FEMA’s Federal Continuity Directives (FCD) 1 and 2 and 36 CFR Part 1223. Course length: 1 day.  Cost:  $150.00.

Electronic Records Management (ERM) This introductory course is designed to provide the skills and knowledge needed to manage electronic records throughout the records lifecycle, and to take steps required to transition from a paper to an electronic records environment.  Course length:  2 days. Cost:  $300.00.

Posted in Upcoming | Tagged | 1 Comment

February BRIDG Meeting Recap

Last week, we held our February Bimonthly Records and Information Discussion Group (BRIDG) meeting. Almost 200 records professionals from across the Federal Government attended in person or watched our live stream. One of our goals for this year is to provide summaries of BRIDG meetings here on Records Express.

The highlight of the meeting was a surprise appearance by The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, who closed the session by thanking all of the attendees for their professionalism and the work they do every day in preserving and protecting the records of the United States. His remarks are below and can be watched here.

I just wanted to say Good Morning and I am really here to thank you. Thank you for the work you do everyday because I bet you don’t get many “thank yous” on the job. What you do is tremendously important. Not only for managing the work of the government today, but for our history. You are in the process of making sure that our history is recorded, kept, and preserved so that future generations can hold the government accountable for its actions and for people to learn more about our history through our records.  So thank you for what you do.

This is a particularly important time as we transition to a new administration; 4100 new political appointees coming to town. Your responsibility in terms of ensuring those people are trained about the rules and regulations around records management gives you an opportunity to pass on the importance of maintaining and preserving our records. So, thank you very much for the work you do.

The rest of the program included presentations from:

  • Jay Trainer, Executive for Agency Services, introduced two of his new directors, who made their first presentations to the BRIDG audience.
  • Alina Semo, Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), discussed OGIS’s role in resolving FOIA disputes and reviewing agency FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance.
  • Mark Bradley, Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), discussed his office’s responsibilities for overseeing the Executive Branch’s system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying classified information.

Other presenters included:

  • Don Rosen, who discussed Senior Agency Official reporting,
  • Kim Gentile, who provided an overview of the Civilian Personnel Records Center Mission and Activities,
  • Margaret Hawkins, who reviewed the 2016 Records Management Customer Satisfaction Survey Results.

The presentation slides can be accessed as a .pdf here. You can watch (or rewatch!) the entire meeting below.


Posted in General | Tagged | 1 Comment

Selecting Appropriate Formats for Transfer

We frequently receive questions from agencies about what to do when they have records in formats not listed in our revised Transfer Guidance NARA Bulletin 2014-04. The revised guidance greatly expanded the number of formats acceptable for use when transferring permanent records to the National Archives, but there may still be situations where records are in formats that are not listed. Here are some questions to consider when this situation occurs:  

Is the record scheduled as a permanent record?

The formats detailed in Appendix A of the Transfer Guidance only apply to agency records that have been scheduled as permanent. The Bulletin assumes these permanent records are described by schedule items and will be transferred to NARA when the specified retention period is met. Agencies are not required to manage records scheduled as temporary in accordance with NARA’s revised Transfer Guidance. However, agencies should maintain an up-to-date preservation plan for permanent and long-term temporary records describing  how to maintain them and when to migrate them to new formats so the records remain accessible and usable for as long as they are needed.   

Is the record available in another format?

Occasionally agencies maintain copies of records in multiple formats to meet their needs. Therefore, it is possible a record is available in a preferred or acceptable format in addition to formats that are not acceptable. Assuming the copies are of equal quality and are supported with sufficient metadata, agency records officers are encouraged to identify the copy in an acceptable format as the record or contact NARA’s Electronic Records Accessioning and Processing Staff (RDEP) to determine the best format for the transfer of permanent records.  

Should agencies convert or migrate a permanent record from a non-conforming format to one that conforms with the Transfer Guidance?

NARA recommends agencies exercise caution when considering changing the format of a permanent record. The Transfer Guidance states:

Transformation of an electronic record from one format to another could result in changes to the record content, structure, or metadata. Agencies that maintain records in formats that do not conform to this Bulletin should contact the appropriate NARA office, as listed in Section 11, before migrating, converting, or altering the permanent records to meet the NARA format requirements.  

Potential risks include unintended alteration or loss of a record’s content and metadata including loss of persistent links to external information. Sufficient verification processes are required to guarantee that format migrations do not radically alter and impact a record’s trustworthiness. Agency records officers should contact NARA before proceeding with any format migration or conversion.

Posted in General | Tagged | 3 Comments

Records Management of Social Media and Electronic Records

We have been receiving questions about the records management responsibilities for content created in social media and through the use of electronic messages. We would like to remind Federal agencies that we have issued guidance on both of these topics:

NARA Bulletin 2014-02 for Guidance on Managing Social Media Records, and
NARA Bulletin 2015-02 for Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages.

Agencies are responsible for complying with these bulletins, and managing social media and electronic messages – including traditional SMS texts, encrypted communications, messaging applications, and direct messages on social media platforms – that are Federal records. Social media content and electronic messages related to the conduct of agency business are presumed to be Federal records.

Agencies must properly manage all Federal records, regardless of medium or format, which includes determining whether an existing disposition authority applies. The disposition authority (or records schedule) governs how long the records must be maintained. If no disposition authority exists, then agencies must develop it and submit it to NARA for review and approval by the Archivist of the United States.

Bulletin 2014-02 informs agencies that content created on social media platforms, including Twitter, is likely to be a Federal record and must be managed appropriately. For records posted on third-party social media platforms, agencies must determine how best to manage the records for the appropriate retention period and capture them where appropriate.  Some social media records may be temporary, with a transitory, short, or long-term retention. However, some dispositions may be permanent, requiring the records to be preserved until their eventual transfer to the National Archives.

Bulletin 2015-02 provides records management guidance for electronic messages. Specifically, this Bulletin applies to text messaging, chat/instant messaging, direct messaging functionality in social media tools or applications, voice messaging, and similar forms of electronic messaging systems. Electronic messages created or received in the course of agency business are Federal records. Like all Federal records, these electronic messages must be scheduled for disposition. Some types of electronic messages, such as email messages, are more likely to contain substantive information and thus are likely to require retention for several years, or even permanently. Electronic messages, including email, created or received in a personal account meeting the definition of a Federal record must be forwarded to an official electronic messaging account within 20 days.

Once records, including tweets and messages, are scheduled, they may not be deleted until the authorized retention period has been met. NARA authorizes Federal agencies to disposition records through approved records schedules, so any alteration, deletion, destruction, or removal of records that occurs without following the applicable records schedule must be promptly reported to NARA.

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