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Information Management: Challenges in Managing and Preserving Electronic Records

GAO-02-586 Published: Jun 17, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 2002.
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Agencies are increasingly moving to an electronic environment rather than paper records. Because electronic records provide comprehensive documentation of essential government functions and provide information necessary to protect government and citizen interests, their proper management is essential. Further, the preservation of significant documents and other records is crucial for the historical record. Responsibility for the government's electronic records lies with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA completed an assessment of the current federal record keeping environment in 2001 which concluded that although agencies are creating and maintaining records appropriately, most remain unscheduled, and records of historical value are not being identified and provided to NARA for archival preservation. Although NARA plans to improve its guidance and to address technology issues, its plans do not address the low priority generally given to records management programs, nor the issue of systematic inspections. Recognizing the limitations of its technical strategies to support preservation, management, and sustained access to electronic records, NARA is planning to design, acquire, and manage an advanced electronic records (ERA) system. However, NARA is behind schedule for the ERA system, largely because of flaws in how the schedule was developed. Further, to acquire a major system like ERA, NARA needs to improve its information technology management capabilities.

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