Federal Records Management Reforms Likely to Stall in Congress

    Sep 09, 2014

    Despite widely reported problems with the records management policies, practices, and responsibilities of federal agencies, most of the legislative efforts to address these problems are likely to languish in Congress.  That is the assessment of ARMA International’s government relations staff, which met with House and Senate committee staff in late August to outline initiatives the professional association is promoting to address the government’s records management compliance challenges. 

    ARMA is supporting the enactment of two bipartisan bills reported by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  One is the Electronic Message Preservation Act (H.R. 1234), which would amend the Federal Records Act to require federal agencies to capture, manage, and preserve electronic records, and to require such records to be retrievable through electronic searches.  The other is the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 (H.R. 1233), which would replace requirements for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to accept specific media types, such as audio and audiovisual records, with a generalized requirement to receive “recorded information.”

    In addition, following the recent controversy over lost e-mails at the IRS, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill (H.R. 5170) to create more accountability within federal agencies when employees destroy federal records or fail to comply with federal records laws and regulations. 

    However, according to Congressional sources, only one of those three bills is likely to make it to the President’s desk.  Efforts are being made to “hotline” the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments in the Senate, a process under which a bill is quickly considered via unanimous consent.  The House-passed bill was reported by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 21, 2014.  With only a handful of legislative days remaining in the Congressional session, an objection from just one Senator will likely doom that legislation for this year.

    In addition to the two bills in Congress, ARMA is advocating for a revamp of the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) draft occupational series for government records managers.  The Managing Government Records Directive issued in August 2012 by NARA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) called on OPM to “establish a formal records management occupational series to elevate records management roles, responsibilities, and skill sets for agency records officers and other records professionals.”  The agency released a draft position classification flysheet in December 2013 which, according to Liz Icenogle, ARMA International’s associate director of Government Affairs, falls short in accurately describing the skills necessary to manage a modern information governance program. 

    “ARMA urges Congress to conduct oversight of the development of the draft job series as well as the process for making modifications,” she said.  “In particular, ARMA believes that NARA should be given a greater role in developing the occupational classification, and greater transparency should be demanded so that the broader information governance community can be made aware of the progress toward creating the final occupational series.”

    The Washington Policy Brief is an online advisory that contains brief summaries of recent legislative and regulatory issues that may affect the records and information management profession. Further information about the issue is accessed by clicking on the link provided at the end of each summary.


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