Information Management:

Planning for the Electronic Records Archives Has Improved

GAO-04-927: Published: Sep 23, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 2004.

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Since 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been working to develop the policies and plans to build the Electronic Records Archives (ERA), a major information system that is intended to preserve and provide access to massive volumes of all types and formats of electronic records. Senate Report 108-146 directed GAO to provide a progress report on NARA's development of the ERA system. Specifically, GAO's objective was to determine the agency's progress in implementing recommendations from previous assessments.

NARA has made progress towards addressing GAO's prior recommendations: four of the eight recommendations have been fully addressed, and NARA is making progress in addressing the three recommendations on staffing, enterprise architecture, and information security. NARA is making less progress in addressing the recommendation to revise acquisition policies and plans to meet relevant industry standards. None of the eight key acquisition policies and plans fully complies with the standards selected by the agency. A contributing cause has been that although contractor staff assessed these policies and plans against standards, NARA had not established a process to ensure that the identified weaknesses were addressed and incorporated into subsequent versions. Making program policies and plans compliant before contract award is important to ensure that the agency has the information it needs to manage the acquisition and that the contractors have sufficient information on which to base the design of the system.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To reduce the risks associated with NARA's efforts to acquire ERA, the Archivist should direct the ERA program director to design and implement a process to ensure that recommendations in verification and validation reviews are addressed and incorporated into acquisition policies and plans.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration: National Archives and Records Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been working to develop the Electronic Records Archives (ERA). ERA is a major information system that is intended to preserve and provide access to massive volumes of all types and formats of electronic records. In September 2004, we reported on NARA's progress in developing the ERA system. We reported that the program lacked a process to ensure that the results of verification and validation reviews of policies and plans were incorporated into final versions. We recommended that the Archivist direct the ERA program director to design and implement a process to ensure that recommendations from verification and validation reviews are addressed and incorporated into acquisition policies and plans. We noted that such a process reduces the risk that acquisition policies and plans do not meet industry standards. In August 2006, we reported that NARA had developed and implemented standard operating procedures to ensure that reviewers' recommendations are addressed in the final versions of ERA's acquisition policies and plans. Specifically, acquisition policies and plans are assessed by an independent verification and validation contractor, who reviews them against applicable industry standards and prepares a report with results and recommendations. After the policies and plans have been revised and recommendations incorporated, they are returned to the independent verification and validation contractor to ensure that all recommendations have been incorporated. NARA applied these procedures in its revisions to key ERA policies and plans, including the acquisition strategy and configuration management plan. Making program policies and plans compliant before contract award is important to ensure that NARA has information it needs to manage the acquisition and that the contractors have sufficient information on which to base the design of ERA.

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