In July, the U.S. House of Representatives sent a strong message to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) when it passed a fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill (H.R. 5016) that would cut the agency’s budget by 13%, or $9.8 billion. The cuts are in response to the recent scandal over the unauthorized disposal of e-mail records at the IRS and Republican criticism that the agency is obstructing Congressional investigations into the targeting of conservative, tax-exempt organizations.
In addition, the legislation would prohibit the IRS from destroying or disposing of records in violation of the Federal Records Act (FRA). The FRA also requires agencies to inform the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) when they become aware of an incident of unauthorized destruction of records. At a June hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, U.S. Archivist David Ferriero said that the IRS “did not follow the law” when it became aware of its unauthorized destruction of records.
A significant amount of the IRS spending cuts are expected to be restored in negotiations with the Senate. A White House statement said President Obama would veto the House appropriations bill if it came to his desk because it “would hinder IRS efforts to provide robust service to taxpayers, improve enforcement operations, and implement new statutory responsibilities.”
The Appropriations Committee’s report to accompany the bill also calls on NARA to strengthen its records management leadership role. “The Committee believes that providing reliable access to electronic records far into the future, regardless of advancements in technology, is of utmost importance,” states the report, which does not have the force of law. It urges NARA to “ensure effective and efficient preservation, appraisal, scheduling, and routine transfer of electronic records by Federal agencies.”
Some in the records and information management community view these reductions as a missed opportunity to support NARA’s efforts to improve records management compliance in the federal government.
“Unfortunately, NARA is not sufficiently empowered by Congress and the administration to fix the wide-spread compliance problems,” said Fred Pulzello, president of ARMA International. “The agency shares responsibility for records management oversight with the General Services Administration, but it lacks the authority to compel consistent implementation and compliance across agencies, and it needs more support from Congress in the appropriations and oversight process.”