Information Management:

Additional Actions Are Needed to Meet Requirements of the Managing Government Records Directive

GAO-15-339: Published: May 14, 2015. Publicly Released: May 14, 2015.

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Valerie C. Melvin
(202) 512-6304
melvinv@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The 24 federal agencies took actions toward implementing each of the seven requirements set forth in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directive on managing government records (see table).

Agency Implementation of Managing Government Directive Requirements

Directive area

Due date

Number of agencies implementing requirement

Designate senior agency officials to oversee records management activities at assistant secretary level

November 15, 2012

22 of 24

Report on progress to manage permanent and temporary e-mail records in electronic format

August 24, 2013a

23 of 24

Develop and begin to implement plans to manage all permanent records in an electronic format

December 31, 2013

23 of 24

Identify for transfer and report permanent records in existence for more than 30 years

December 31, 2013

21 of 24

Identify all unscheduled records that have not been properly scheduled

December 31, 2013

20 of 24

Obtain NARA certificate for records management training

December 31, 2014

22 of 24

Establish records management training for all staff

December 31, 2014

22 of 24

Source: GAO analysis of data provided by 24 major agencies. | GAO-15-339

aNARA subsequently changed the reporting deadline to December 31, 2013.

However, certain requirements were not fully met by 5 of the agencies because these agencies were either still working on addressing the requirement, or did not view the requirement as mandatory. For example, while all 24 agencies designated a senior official to oversee records management, 2 did not designate the official at the assistant secretary level, and 1 did not reaffirm the official by the specified deadline. Further, at 2 agencies, records management officers did not obtain the NARA training certificate or had not been granted an exemption. These agencies expect to complete their training by the end of fiscal year 2015.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), OMB, and NARA took steps to implement 11 required oversight actions, although not all actions had been completed. For example, OPM finalized an occupational series to elevate records management roles, responsibilities, and skill sets for agency records professionals. In addition, OMB was in the process of updating its Circular A-130 to include records management requirements for agencies when moving to cloud-based services or storage solutions. The agency expects to release the updated circular by December 2015. Lastly, NARA, in consultation with other stakeholders, produced a plan to move agencies toward greater automation of records management. However, it did not include metadata requirements in its guidance, as required. Until agencies, OMB, and NARA fully implement the directive's requirements, the federal government may be hindered in its efforts to improve performance and promote openness and accountability through the reform of records management.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government collects large amounts of information, increasingly in electronic form, to accomplish its missions. This greater reliance on electronic communication and information technology systems has, as a result, radically increased the information that agencies must manage. In 2012, NARA and OMB issued a directive to reform federal records management in response to a 2011 presidential memorandum on managing government records. The directive requires federal agencies, NARA, OMB, and OPM to take actions toward reforming records management policies and practices.

GAO was requested to evaluate federal agencies' implementation of the directive. GAO's objectives were to (1) assess the extent to which federal agencies have taken the actions called for in the directive and (2) determine the extent to which OPM, OMB, and NARA have taken actions called for in the directive. To do this, GAO reviewed policies, guidance, and other documentation of actions taken through December 31, 2014, by 24 selected federal agencies, NARA, and OMB, and interviewed the agencies' records management officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 10 recommendations to 5 federal agencies and NARA to ensure records management directive requirements on designating senior officials and identifying, reporting, and managing records are met. In commenting on a draft of this report, the agencies and NARA generally agreed with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Valerie C. Melvin at (202) 512-6304 or melvinv@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) designated its Chief Information Officer as the Senior Agency Official. This designation, as of July 2015, has been was updated on NARA's website that contains a listing of all designated Senior Agency Officials across the federal government.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management should ensure that the Senior Agency Official designated to oversee the agency's compliance with records management statutes and regulations is at or equivalent to the level of an assistant secretary, as required by the directive.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, the Department of Veterans Affairs designated its Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Technology as the Senior Agency Official with responsibility for complying with applicable records management statues, regulations, and National Archives and Records Administration policy. This designation, as of May 2015, has been was updated on NARA's website that contains a listing of all designated Senior Agency Officials across the federal government.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should designate a Senior Agency Official at or equivalent to the level of assistant secretary who has direct responsibility for ensuring that the agency complies with applicable records management statutes, regulations, and NARA policy, including being able to make adjustments to agency practices, personnel, and funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Secretary of Transportation should identify permanent records that were in existence for 30 years or more for one remaining component and report this information to NARA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Director of the National Science Foundation should establish a date by which the agency will complete, and then report to NARA, its plans for managing permanent records electronically. The plan should describe, among other things, how permanent electronic records are currently captured, retained, searched, and retrieved; plans to digitize permanent records currently in hard-copy format or other analog formats; plans to manage all permanent electronic records in electronic format, including how the plans will be implemented; and challenges the agency faced in achieving the requirement of managing all permanent electronic records in an electronic format.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Director of the National Science Foundation should establish a date by which the agency will complete, and then report to NARA on, its progress toward managing permanent and temporary e-mail records in an electronic format, to include the agency's ability to retain e-mail records in an electronic system that supports records management and litigation requirements, including the capability to identify, retrieve, and retain the records for as long as they are needed.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Director of the National Science Foundation should report to NARA on the identification of its permanent records in existence for 30 years or more, to include when no such records exist.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Director of the National Science Foundation should complete the identification of unscheduled records stored at agency records storage facilities.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) concurred with this recommendation and reported that it has created a draft NARA Bulletin to issue guidance for metadata requirements. NARA reported that the bulletin is going through a review and clearance and expects to public release the NARA Bulletin by June 2016.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Archivist of the United States should establish a time frame and revise NARA transfer guidance for permanent electronic records to include all aspects of metadata requirements.

    Agency Affected: National Archives and Records Administration

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in cooperation with the Federal Records Council and community of interest groups, identified tools to assist agencies with addressing records management challenges.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Archivist of the United States should identify tools to assist agencies with addressing records management challenges in cooperation with the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, the Federal Records Council, and other government-wide councils that express interest.

    Agency Affected: National Archives and Records Administration

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that directive requirements are met, the Administrator of the General Services Administration should expedite efforts to ensure that permanent records that were in existence for 30 years or more, including records stored at agency records storage facilities, are identified and reported to NARA.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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