Electronic Records Archives:

The National Archives and Records Administration's Fiscal Year 2006 Expenditure Plan

GAO-06-906: Published: Aug 18, 2006. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 2006.

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Since 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been working to acquire the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system, which is intended to address critical issues in the creation, management, and use of federal electronic records. As required by law, the agency submitted its fiscal year 2006 expenditure plan to the congressional appropriations committees, seeking the release of about $22 million for the development of the system. GAO's objectives in reviewing the expenditure plan were to (1) determine the extent to which the expenditure plan satisfied the legislative conditions specified in the appropriations act; (2) determine the extent to which NARA has implemented GAO's prior recommendations; and (3) provide any other observations about the expenditure plan and the ERA acquisition. We reviewed the expenditure plan and analyzed it against the legislative conditions and assessed NARA's progress in addressing prior recommendations.

NARA's fiscal year 2006 expenditure plan fully satisfies three of the six legislative conditions and partially satisfies the remaining conditions. The agency continues to make progress in addressing prior GAO recommendations: the agency has fully implemented three of five and has partially implemented the remaining two. The agency has (1) strengthened information security by developing a program that includes agencywide assessments of information security risks; (2) developed and implemented a document review process to ensure that recommendations from reviewers are addressed and incorporated into acquisition policies and plans; and (3) improved federal records management by implementing strategies to raise agencies' awareness of records management principles, functions, and programs. However, while NARA has completed the development of an enterprise architecture, it lacks an agencywide board for reviewing information technology projects for conformance to the architecture, including projects that are interdependent with ERA. In addition, the agency revised four out of five key policies and plans to comply with industry standards. At the time of our briefing, the Risk Management Plan was under revision. It was completed in July 2006. Until the agency fully addresses all prior recommendations, risks remain to the successful implementation of the system. NARA's expenditure plan does not contain the level and scope of information needed by Congress to understand the agency's plans and commitments relative to system capabilities, benefits, schedules, and costs. For example, it does not fully describe how the infrastructure elements that are to be procured will fit into the overall system design. Until the agency improves future expenditure plans to include information on system capabilities, benefits, schedules, and costs, Congress will not have the information needed to oversee plans and progress on the acquisition of the system. We performed our work at NARA's College Park, Maryland, location in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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 risks associated with NARA's efforts to acquire ERA, the Archivist of the United States should ensure that future expenditure plans include a sufficient level and scope of information to enable Congress to understand what system capabilities and benefits are to be delivered, by when, and at what cost, and report on the progress being made against the commitments that were made in prior expenditures plans.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2006, we reported on the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Fiscal Year 2006 Expenditure Plan for acquiring the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system. ERA is a major information system that is intended to address critical issues in creating, managing, and using federal electronic records and automating the records management and archiving life cycle. We noted that NARA's expenditure plan did not contain the level and scope of information needed by Congress to understand the agency's plans and commitments relative to system capabilities, benefits, schedules, and costs. We recommended that to reduce the risks associated with NARA's efforts to acquire ERA, the Archivist of the United States ensure that future expenditure plans include a sufficient level and scope of information to enable the Congress to understand what system capabilities and benefits are to be delivered, by when, and at what cost, and report on the progress being made against the commitments that were made in prior expenditure plans. The Archivist agreed with our results and recommendation. During our review of NARA's fiscal year 2007 expenditure plan for the ERA acquisition, we noted that NARA implemented our recommendation and incorporated information such as the agency's plans and commitments relative to ERA system capabilities, benefits, schedules, and costs. By doing so, NARA provided more detailed information that could help Congress in its oversight of the ERA acquisition.

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