The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in early February submitted a plan to Congress that details the agency’s request for funding for fiscal year 2016. The plan calls for an increase of $2.5 million and 17 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees to enhance NARA’s oversight of government-wide electronic records management activities.
“In light of recent revelations that many high-level agency executives conducted official government business over personal e-mails, we believe NARA’s request may not be enough to accomplish the task,” said Liz Icenogle, ARMA International’s director of government affairs.
Government Executive Media Group reported last week that a recent survey of government personnel by its research arm found that the practice of using personal e-mails to conduct official business appears relatively common, even though it likely violates the Federal Records Act. According to the survey, 33% of respondents confirmed that personnel in their agency use personal e-mail for government business at least sometimes, and 15% said employees use it always or often.
According to NARA’s budget submission, the additional spending would provide the agency with the capability to evaluate other federal agencies’ compliance with the Federal Records Act and Managing Government Records Directive through direct physical inspections, systems audits of agency recordkeeping systems, and enhanced data collection, analysis, and reporting.
The Directive requires federal agencies to manage both permanent and temporary records in an electronically accessible format by the end of 2016. It also requires federal agencies to manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format by the end of 2019. To accomplish those goals, the Directive requires agencies to establish records management training and ensure that all agency records are scheduled for retention and disposition.
The additional funds requested by NARA would be used to hire a dedicated staff to conduct site visits and physical inspections of agency records management practices, and to test agency compliance with electronic recordkeeping mandates in the Directive. “This initiative would help to ensure the effective management and appropriate preservation of Federal records by identifying and addressing the most serious records and information management compliance issues across the Government,” the document states.
“We support NARA’s request to commit more resources to compliance, and we plan to communicate that support to Congress,” Icenogle said. “The agency has done a terrific job of providing direction to departments and agencies by means of the Managing Government Records Directive, but more resources are needed to ensure proper implementation of the Directive’s ambitious goals and actions.”
Overall, NARA’s budget request is for $389 million, an increase of $7.3 million from what was enacted in fiscal year 2015. Of that, $372 million would go toward the agency’s operating budget, $4.2 million would be allocated to the Inspector General office, $7.5 million would go toward repairing and restoring NARA-owned buildings, and $5 million would go toward awarding grants by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.