Federal agencies are increasingly using electronic mail (e-mail) for essential communication. In doing so, they are potentially creating messages that have the status of federal records, which must be managed and preserved in accordance with the Federal Records Act. To carry out the records management responsibilities established in the act, agencies are to follow implementing regulations that include specific requirements for e-mail records. In view of the importance that e-mail plays in documenting government activities, GAO was asked to testify on issues relating to the preservation of electronic records, including e-mail. As agreed, GAO's statement discusses challenges facing agencies when managing their e-mail records, as well as current policies and practices for managing e-mail messages that qualify as federal records. This testimony is primarily based on preliminary results of ongoing work, in which GAO is examining, among other things, e-mail policies at four agencies of contrasting sizes and structures (the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development), as well as the practices of selected senior officials.
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