At the request of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on Sept. 10 outlining actions that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) needs to take to ensure that facilities that store federal records meet certain standards.
NARA manages the federal records centers, which consist of 17 facilities in nine regions of the country that safeguard the nation’s records, including citizen tax returns, official military personnel folders, passport applications, and top-secret military records.
Federal records centers are required to meet federal regulatory requirements for certain minimum structural, environmental, property, and life safety standards. In addition, agencies operate records centers for storing their own records, and many use private sector commercial facilities.
In developing the report, GAO conducted a performance audit from November 2012 to September 2013 to determine the types of facilities agencies use to store federal records and the extent to which NARA’s data on agencies’ use of storage facilities are complete; evaluate the extent to which NARA has determined these facilities to be compliant with standards in federal regulations; determine what actions NARA has taken to minimize damage to records in federal records centers and the extent to which it documents such efforts; and determine how NARA determines storage fees and whether fees differ among facilities.
The GAO report identifies a number of deficiencies in meeting regulatory requirements for the centers. In particular, the report states that NARA does not know where all agencies store their records. It finds that a number of facilities are not in compliance with standards related to quality, effectiveness, durability, and safety. It also notes that NARA is not positioned to fully report on the effectiveness of its actions to minimize permanent damage to federal records.
According to the GAO, NARA has plans to address the deficiencies at the noncompliant federal records centers. To read the full report, click here.