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Before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National 
Archives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2p.m. EST: 
November 9, 2009: 

National Archives: 

Progress and Risks in Implementing its Electronic Records Archive 

Statement of David A. Powner: 
Director, Information Technology Management Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-222T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Committee on 
Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Since 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has 
been working to develop a modern Electronic Records Archive (ERA) 
system, a major information system that is intended to preserve and 
provide access to massive volumes of all types and formats of 
electronic records. The system is being developed incrementally over 
several years, with the first two pieces providing an initial set of 
functions and additional capabilities to be added in future increments. 
NARA plans to deploy full system functionality by 2012 at an estimated 
life-cycle cost of about $550 million. 

NARA originally planned to complete the first segment of ERA in 
September 2007. However, software and contracting problems led the 
agency and its contractor Lockheed Martin to revise the development 
approach. The revised plan called for parallel development of two 
different increments: a “base” ERA system with limited functionality 
and an Executive Office of the President (EOP) system to support the 
ingestion and search of records from the outgoing Bush Administration. 

GAO was asked to summarize NARA’s progress in developing the ERA system 
and the ongoing risks the agency faces in completing it. In preparing 
this testimony, GAO relied on its prior work and conducted a 
preliminary review of NARA’s fiscal year 2010 ERA expenditure plan. 

What GAO Found: 

NARA has completed two of five planned increments of ERA, but has 
experienced schedule delays and cost overruns, and several functions 
planned for the system’s initial release were deferred. Although NARA 
initially planned for the system to be capable of ingesting federal and 
presidential records in September 2007, the two system increments to 
support those records did not achieve initial operating capability 
until June 2008 and December 2008, respectively. In addition, NARA 
reportedly spent about $80 million on the base increment, compared to 
its planned cost of about $60 million. Finally, a number of functions 
originally planned for the base increment were deferred to later 
increments, including the ability to delete records and to ingest 
redacted records. In fiscal year 2010, NARA plans to complete the third 
increment, which is to include new systems for Congressional records 
and public access, and begin work on the fourth.
GAO’s previous work on ERA identified significant risks to the program 
and recommended actions to mitigate them. Specifically, GAO reported 
that NARA’s plans for ERA lacked sufficient detail to, for example, 
clearly show what functions had been delivered to date or were to be 
included in future increments and at what cost. Second, NARA had been 
inconsistent in its use of earned value management (EVM), a project 
management approach that can provide objective reports of project 
status and early warning signs of cost and schedule overruns. 
Specifically, GAO found that NARA fully employed only 5 of 13 best 
practices for cost estimation that address EVM. Further, NARA lacked a 
contingency plan for ERA to ensure system continuity in the event that 
normal operations were disrupted. For example, NARA did not have a 
fully functional backup and restore process for the ERA system, a key 
component of contingency planning for system availability. 

To help mitigate these risks, GAO recommended that NARA: 

* include details in future ERA expenditure plans on the functions and 
costs of completed and planned increments; 

* strengthen its earned value management process following best 
practices; and: 

* develop and implement a system contingency plan for ERA. NARA 
reported in its most recent expenditure plan that it had taken actions 
to address these recommendations. 

View [hyperlink,] or key 
components. For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-
9286 or 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's hearing on the 
National Archives' (NARA) Electronic Records Archive system (ERA). 
Since 2001, NARA has been working to develop this system which is 
intended to preserve and provide access to massive volumes of all types 
and formats of electronic records by automating NARA's records 
management and archiving life cycle. The system is to consist of: 

* infrastructure elements, such as hardware and operating systems; 

* business applications that will support the transfer, preservation, 
dissemination, and management of all types of records and the 
preservation of and online access to electronic records; and: 

* a means for public access via the Internet. 

In view of its complexity, the system is being developed incrementally 
over several years; the first two pieces (or increments) of the ERA 
system provided an initial set of functions for managing federal and 
presidential records. NARA plans to add additional capabilities in 
future increments. 

As agreed, my testimony today will summarize NARA's progress in 
developing the ERA system and the ongoing risks NARA faces in 
successfully completing it. My comments today are based on our prior 
work in this area,[Footnote 1] as well as a preliminary review of 
NARA's fiscal year 2010 ERA expenditure plan. Our work was conducted in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those 
standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain 
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our 
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that 
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. 


The ability to find, organize, use, share, appropriately dispose of, 
and save records--the essence of records management--is vital for the 
effective functioning of the federal government. In the wake of the 
transition from paper-based to electronic processes, records are 
increasingly electronic, and the volumes of electronic records produced 
by federal agencies are vast and rapidly growing, providing challenges 
to NARA as the nation's recordkeeper and archivist. 

Besides sheer volume, other factors contributing to the challenge of 
electronic records include their complexity and their dependence on 
software and hardware. Electronic records come in many forms: text 
documents, e-mails, Web pages, digital images, videotapes, maps, 
spreadsheets, presentations, audio files, charts, drawings, databases, 
satellite imagery, geographic information systems, and more. They may 
be complex digital objects that contain embedded images (still and 
moving), drawings, sounds, hyperlinks, or spreadsheets with 
computational formulas. Some portions of electronic records, such as 
the content of dynamic Web pages, are created on the fly from databases 
and exist only during the viewing session. Others, such as e-mail, may 
contain multiple attachments, and they may be threaded (that is, 
related e-mail messages are linked into send-reply chains). 

In addition, the computer operating systems and the hardware and 
software that are used to create electronic documents can become 
obsolete. If they do, they may leave behind records that cannot be read 
without the original hardware and software. Further, the storage media 
for these records are affected by both obsolescence and decay. Media 
may be fragile, have limited shelf life, and become obsolete in a few 
years. For example, few computers today have disk drives that can read 
information stored on 8-or 5¼-inch diskettes, even if the diskettes 
themselves remain readable. 

Another challenge is the growth in electronic presidential records. The 
Presidential Records Act[Footnote 2] gives the Archivist of the United 
States responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of 
presidential records upon the conclusion of a President's term of 
office. The act states that the Archivist has an affirmative duty to 
make such records available to the public as rapidly and completely as 
possible consistent with the provisions of the act. 

In response to these widely recognized challenges, the Archives began a 
research and development program to develop a modern archive for 
electronic records. In 2001, NARA hired a contractor to develop 
policies and plans to guide the overall acquisition of an electronic 
records system. In December 2003, the agency released a request for 
proposals for the design of ERA. In August 2004, NARA awarded two firm- 
fixed-price[Footnote 3] contracts for the design phase totaling about 
$20 million--one to Harris Corporation and the other to Lockheed Martin 
Corporation. On September 8, 2005, NARA announced the selection of 
Lockheed Martin Corporation to build the ERA system. The contract with 
Lockheed is a cost-plus-award-fee contract[Footnote 4] with a total 
value through 2012 of about $317 million. As of April 2009, the life- 
cycle cost for ERA through March 2012 was estimated at $551.4 million; 
the total life-cycle cost includes not only the development contract 
costs, but also program management, research and development, and 
program office support, among other things. Through fiscal year 2008, 
NARA had spent about $237 million on ERA, including about $112 million 
in payments to Lockheed Martin. 

The purpose of ERA is to ensure that the records of the federal 
government are preserved for as long as needed, independent of the 
original hardware or software that created them. ERA is to provide the 
technology to ensure that NARA's electronic records holdings can be 
widely accessed with the technology currently in use. 

The system is to enable the general public, federal agencies, and NARA 
staff to search and access information about all types of federal 
records, whether in NARA custody or not, as well as to search for and 
access electronic records stored in the system. Using various search 
engines, the system is to provide the ability to create and execute 
searches, view search results, and select assets for output or 

NARA currently plans to deliver ERA in five separate increments: 

* Increment 1, also known as the ERA base, included functions focused 
on the transfer of electronic records into the system. 

* Increment 2 includes the Executive Office of the President (EOP) 
system, which was designed to handle electronic records from the White 
House at the end of the previous administration. The EOP system uses an 
architecture based on a commercial off-the-shelf product that supplies 
basic requirements, including rapid ingest of records and immediate and 
flexible search of content. Increment 2 also includes basic case 
management for special access requests.[Footnote 5] 

* According to NARA's 2010 ERA expenditure plan, Increment 3 is to 
include new Congressional and Public Access systems. It is also to 
augment the base system with commercial off-the-shelf technology to 
increase flexibility and scalability. NARA plans to complete this 
increment by June 2010. 

* Increments 4 and 5 are to provide additional ERA functionality, such 
as backup and restore functions and wider search capabilities, and 
provide full system functionality by 2012. 

NARA Has Completed Two of Five ERA Increments, but Also Experienced 
Schedule Delays and Cost Overruns While Deferring Functionality: 

NARA's progress in developing ERA includes achieving initial operating 
capability for the first two of its five planned increments. However 
this progress came after NARA had experienced significant project 
delays and increased costs. NARA also deferred functions planned for 
Increment 1 to later increments. 

As we reported in 2007,[Footnote 6] the initial operating capability 
for Increment 1 was originally scheduled to be achieved by September 
2007. However, the project experienced delays due to factors such as 
low productivity of contractor software programmers, difficulties in 
securing an acceptable contract to prepare the site that was to house 
the system, and problems with software integration. These delays put 
NARA's initial plan to use ERA to receive the electronic presidential 
records of the Bush Administration in January 2009 at risk. 

In response, NARA and Lockheed Martin agreed to a revised schedule and 
strategy that called for the concurrent development of two separate 
systems, which could later be reintegrated into a single system: 

* First, they agreed to continue development of the original system but 
focused the first increment on the transfer of electronic records into 
the system. Other initially planned capabilities were deferred to later 
increments, including deleting records from storage, searching item 
descriptions, and ingesting records redacted outside of the system. 
NARA now refers to this as the "base" ERA system. Initial operating 
capability for this increment was delayed to June 2008. 

* Second, NARA conducted parallel development of a separate increment 
dedicated initially to receiving electronic records from the outgoing 
Bush Administration in January 2009. This system, referred to as the 
Executive Office of the President (EOP) system, uses a different 
architecture from that of the ERA base: it was built on a commercial 
product that was to provide the basic requirements for processing 
presidential electronic records, such as rapid ingestion of records and 
the ability to search content. NARA believed that if it could not 
ingest the Bush records in a way that supported search and retrieval 
immediately after the transition, it risked not being able to 
effectively respond to requests from Congress, the new administration, 
and the courts for these records--a critical agency mission. 

As we reported earlier this year,[Footnote 7] NARA certified that it 
achieved initial operating capability for Increment 1 in June 2008, 
following its revised plan. According to NARA's 2010 expenditure plan, 
this increment cost $80.45 million to deliver, compared to a planned 
cost of $60.62 million. 

NARA also reported that it completed Increment 2 on time in December 
2008 at a cost of $10.4 million (compared to a planned cost of $11.1 
million). However, it was not functioning as intended because of delays 
in ingesting records into the system. Specifically, before the 
transition, NARA had estimated that the Bush electronic records would 
be fully ingested into EOP, where they would be available for search 
and retrieval, by May 2009. However, as of April 27, only 2.3 terabytes 
of data were fully ingested into the EOP system. This constituted about 
3 percent of all Bush Administration unclassified electronic 
records.[Footnote 8] NARA later estimated that ingest of all 78.4 
terabytes of unclassified records would not be complete until October 
2009. In its recently released 2010 expenditure plan, NARA reported 
that the Bush records were fully ingested into EOP by September 2009. 

NARA officials attributed EOP ingest delays, in part, to unexpected 
difficulties. For example, according to NARA officials, once they 
started using the EOP system, they discovered that records from certain 
White House systems were not being extracted in the expected format. As 
a result, the agency had to develop additional software tools to 
facilitate the full extraction of data from White House systems prior 
to ingest into EOP. In addition, in April 2009, NARA discovered that 31 
terabytes of priority data that had been partially ingested between 
December 2008 and January 2009 were neither complete nor accurate 
because they were taken from an incomplete copy of the source system. 

Because the records had not been ingested into the EOP system, NARA had 
to use other systems to respond to requests for presidential records 
early in 2009. As of April 24, 2009, NARA had received 43 special 
access requests for information on the Bush Administration. Only one of 
these requests used EOP for search, and no responsive records were 
found. To respond to 24 of these requests, NARA used replicated systems 
based on the software and related hardware used by the White House for 
records and image management. NARA's current expenditure plan reports 
that after completing ingest of the Bush electronic records in 
September 2009, it retired the replicated systems. 

In fiscal 2010, NARA plans to complete Increment 3 and begin work on 
Increment 4. According to its 2010 expenditure plan, Increment 3 will 
cost $42.2 million and be completed in the fourth quarter of fiscal 
year 2010. It is to provide new systems for congressional records and 
public access, as well as improvements to the existing base system and 
the incorporation of several deferred functions, such as the ability to 
delete records and search and view their descriptions. Fiscal year 2010 
work on Increment 4 is to consist primarily of early planning, 
analysis, and design. 

NARA Faces Several Significant Risks to the Successful Completion of 

Despite the recent completion of the first two ERA increments, NARA 
faces several risks that could limit its ability to successfully 
complete the remaining three increments by 2012. These risks include 
the lack of specific plans describing the functions to be delivered in 
future increments, inconsistent application of earned value management 
(a key management technique), and the lack of a tested contingency plan 
for the ERA system. 

First, NARA's plans for ERA have lacked sufficient detail. For several 
years, NARA's appropriations statute has required it to submit an 
expenditure plan to congressional appropriations committees before 
obligating multi-year funds for the ERA program, and to, among other 
conditions, have the plan reviewed by GAO. These plans are to include a 
sufficient level and scope of information for Congress to understand 
what system capabilities and benefits are to be delivered, by when and 
at what costs, and what progress is being made against the commitments 
that were made in prior expenditure plans. However, several of our 
reviews have found that NARA's plans lacked sufficient detail.[Footnote 
9] Most recently, we reported in July that NARA's 2009 plan did not 
clearly show what functions had been delivered to date or what 
functions were to be included in future increments and at what cost. 

For example, the fiscal year 2009 plan did not specifically identify 
the functions provided in the two completed increments. In addition, 
while the plan discussed the functions deferred to later increments, it 
did not specify the cost of adding those functions at a later time. 
Additionally, NARA's 2009 plan lacked specifics about the scope of 
improvements planned for Increment 3. For example, it described one of 
the improvements as extend storage capacity but did not specify the 
amount of extended storage to be provided. Also, NARA's plan did not 
specify when these functions will be completed or how much they would 
cost. NARA officials attributed the plan's lack of specificity to 
ongoing negotiations with Lockheed Martin. 

Another risk is NARA's inconsistent use of earned value management 
(EVM).[Footnote 10] NARA's 2009 expenditure plan stated that, in 
managing ERA, the agency used EVM tools and required the same of its 
contractors. EVM, if implemented appropriately, can provide objective 
reports of project status, produce early warning signs of impending 
schedule delays and cost overruns, and provide unbiased estimates of a 
program's total costs. We recently published a set of best practices on 
cost estimation that addresses the use of EVM.[Footnote 11] Comparing 
NARA's EVM data to those practices, we determined that NARA fully 
addressed only 5 of the 13 practices. For example, we found weaknesses 
within the EVM performance reports, including contractor reports of 
funds spent without work scheduled or completed, and work completed and 
funds spent where no work was planned. In addition, the program had not 
recently performed an integrated cost-schedule risk analysis. This type 
of analysis provides an estimate of the how much the program will cost 
upon completion and can be compared to the estimate derived from EVM 
data to determine if it is likely to be sound. NARA officials 
attributed these weaknesses, in part, to documentation that did not 
accurately reflect the program's current status. 

Another significant risk is the lack of a contingency plan for ERA. 
Contingency planning is a critical component of information protection. 
If normal operations are interrupted, network managers must be able to 
detect, mitigate, and recover from service disruptions while preserving 
access to vital information. Therefore, a contingency plan details 
emergency response, backup operations, and disaster recovery for 
information systems. Federal guidance recommends 10 security control 
activities related to contingency planning, including developing a 
formal contingency plan, training employees on their contingency roles 
and responsibilities, and identifying a geographically separate 
alternative processing site to support critical business functions in 
the event of a system failure or disruption.[Footnote 12] 

An internal NARA review found weaknesses in all 10 of the required 
contingency planning control activities for ERA. As of April 2009, NARA 
had plans to address each weakness, but had not yet addressed 10 of the 
11 weaknesses. In addition, NARA reported that the backup and restore 
functions for the commercial off-the-shelf archiving product used at 
the ERA facility in West Virginia tested successfully, but there were 
concerns about the amount of time required to execute the process. In 
lab tests, the restore process took about 56 hours for 11 million 
files.[Footnote 13] This is significant because, while the backup is 
being performed, the replication of data must be stopped; otherwise it 
could bring the system to a halt. Subsequently, NARA officials stated 
that they have conducted two successful backups, but the restore 
process had not been fully tested to ensure that the combined backup 
and restore capability can be successfully implemented. 

Implementation of GAO's Recommendations Could Reduce Risks: 

To help mitigate the risks facing the ERA program, we previously 
recommended that NARA, among other things: 

* include more details in future ERA expenditure plans on the functions 
and costs of completed and planned increments; 

* strengthen its earned value management process following best 
practices; and: 

* develop and implement a system contingency plan for ERA. 

In its 2010 expenditure plan, NARA reported that it had taken action to 
address our recommendations. For example, NARA reported that a test of 
the ERA contingency plan was completed on August 5, 2009, and the plan 
itself finalized on September 16, 2009. We have not yet fully reviewed 
this plan or the results of the reported test. However, if NARA fully 
implements our recommendations, we believe the risks can be 
significantly reduced. 

In summary, despite earlier delays, NARA has made progress in 
developing the ERA system, including the transfer of Bush 
administration electronic records. However, future progress could be at 
risk without more specific plans describing the functions to be 
delivered and the cost of developing those functions, which is critical 
for the effective monitoring of the cost, schedule, and performance of 
the ERA system. Similarly, inconsistent use of key project management 
disciplines like earned value management would limit NARA's ability to 
effectively manage this project and accurately report on its progress. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony today. I would be happy to 
answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have. 

Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

If you or your staff have any questions about matters discussed in this 
testimony, please contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or The other key contributor to this testimony was James 
R. Sweetman, Jr., Assistant Director. 

[End of section] 


[1] See GAO, Electronic Records Archives: The National Archives and 
Records Administration's Fiscal Year 2009 Expenditure Plan, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: July 
24, 2009); Information Management: Challenges in Implementing an 
Electronic Records Archive, [hyperlink,
bin/getrpt?GAO-08-738T] (Washington, D.C.: May 14, 2008); Information 
Management: The National Archives and Records Administration's Fiscal 
Year 2007 Expenditure Plan, [1] See GAO, Electronic Records Archives: 
The National Archives and Records Administration's Fiscal Year 2009 
Expenditure Plan, [hyperlink,
733] (Washington, D.C.: July 24, 2009); Information Management: 
Challenges in Implementing an Electronic Records Archive, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: May 
14, 2008); Information Management: The National Archives and Records 
Administration's Fiscal Year 2007 Expenditure Plan, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: July 
27, 2007); and Electronic Records Archives: The National Archives and 
Records Administration's Fiscal Year 2006 Expenditure Plan, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 
18, 2006). [hyperlink, 
(Washington, D.C.: July 27, 2007); and Electronic Records Archives: The 
National Archives and Records Administration's Fiscal Year 2006 
Expenditure Plan, [hyperlink,
906] (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 18, 2006). 

[2] 44 U.S.C. 2203(f)(1). 

[3] According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, a firm-fixed-price 
contract provides for a price that is not subject to any adjustment on 
the basis of the contractor's cost experience in performing the 
contract. This type of contract places on the contractor maximum risk 
and full responsibility for costs and resulting profit or loss. 

[4] A cost-plus-award-fee contract is a cost reimbursement contract 
that provides for a fee consisting of a base amount fixed at the 
inception of the contract plus an award amount that may be given based 
upon a judgmental evaluation by the government of contract performance. 

[5] These are requests NARA receives from the current and former 
administrations, Congress, and the courts for access to presidential 

[6] [hyperlink,]. 

[7] [hyperlink,]. 

[8] NARA's original EOP plans included a National Security System. NARA 
subsequently deferred the capability to ingest classified national 
security data, stating that the volume to be transferred from the Bush 
Administration did not support the establishment of a full scale 
classified EOP system as planned. Instead, NARA migrated the classified 
data from the Bush Administration to an existing classified NARA 
presidential library system. 

[9] See [hyperlink,] and 

[10] EVM is a project management tool that integrates the technical 
scope of work with schedule and cost elements for investment planning 
and control. It compares the value of work accomplished in a given 
period with the value of the work expected in that period. Differences 
in expectations are measured in both cost and schedule variances. The 
Office of Management and Budget requires agencies to use EVM in their 
performance-based management systems for the parts of an investment in 
which development effort is required or system improvements are under 

[11] GAO, GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide: Best Practices for 
Developing and Managing Capital Program Costs, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: March, 

[12] National Institute of Standards and Technology, Recommended 
Security Controls for Federal Information Systems, Special Publication 
800-53 Revision 1 (Gaithersburg, MD: December 2006). 

[13] NARA estimates that it has received more than 300 million files 
from the Bush Administration. 

[End of section]

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