NARA Issues Second Phase of Proposed Federal Records Management Regulations

    Aug 10, 2016

    On July 13 – four months after releasing the first phase of proposed records management rules –  the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released a second set of proposed rules to revise the federal government’s records management regulations to reflect changes in technology, practice, and organizational structure.

    The first phase focused on regulations related to managing vital records, records disposition programs, general records schedules, emergency authorization to destroy records, transfer of records to records storage facilities, and other requirements. The second phase proposals establish requirements for managing electronic messages and electronic information systems, transferring permanent electronic federal records to NARA, and managing analog and digital audiovisual, cartographic, and related records.

    The new requirements for managing electronic records reflect “an update in response to major developments in the area of electronic recordkeeping and electronic messaging and we have proposed several revisions to this part,” NARA noted in the recent release. “These changes include provisions to reflect the 2014 FRA [Federal Records Act] Amendments, a new section with Federal electronic messaging requirements, standards for internet message formats, new definitions for electronic messages and messaging accounts, and a requirement to associate proper names with email accounts.”

    The FRA Amendments Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in November 2014, created a new definition for electronic messages to mean “electronic mail and other electronic messaging systems that are used for purposes of communicating between individuals.” In July 2015, NARA issued guidance to federal agencies relevant to the act and applicable to text messaging, instant messaging, and forms of electronic communications other than e-mail. 

    The recently proposed rules establish new definitions for electronic information systems, electronic messages, electronic messaging accounts, e-mail systems, and unstructured electronic records. They establish new records management controls regarding reliability, authenticity, integrity, usability, content, context, and structure to ensure that federal records in electronic systems provide adequate and proper documentation of agency business.

    In addition, the new proposed rules require agencies to incorporate certain records management and preservation considerations into the design and operation of electronic information systems, and recommend recordkeeping functionalities that should be built into electronic information systems. They also warn federal employees to avoid using personal electronic messaging systems for official business. 

    “Employees should use non-official electronic messaging accounts only when agency-administered systems are unavailable, and never as a routine business practice,” the release states. “Employees may not create or send a record using a non-official electronic messaging account unless the employee: (1) Copies their official electronic messaging account when they originally create or transmit the record; or (2) Forwards a complete copy of the record to their official electronic messaging account no later than 20 days after they originally create or transmit the record.”

    The deadline for submitting comments on the second set of proposed rules is September 12, 2016.

    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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