Agencies must deliver plans for modernizing their records management policies by late March, President Obama said in a Monday memorandum.
The memo urges officials to digitize records whenever possible but notes that greater use of electronic communications has “radically increased” both the amount and diversity of information that agencies must manage. Although that surge risks overwhelming agency systems, Obama said, technology “can make these records less burdensome to manage and easier to use and share.”
In their plans, agencies must describe how they will improve or maintain their records management programs, particularly in regard to email, social media and other electronic communications. They also have to explain how they will use cloud-based services and storage solutions, as well as spell out any gaps or provisions in existing laws or regulations that get in the way of better management. The Office of Management and Budget, National Archives and Records Administration, and Justice Department will use those reports to come up with a governmentwide records management framework that is more efficient, maintains accountability by documenting agency actions and promotes “appropriate” public access to records, Obama said.
The initiative won praise from leaders of two watchdog groups, OpenTheGovernment.org and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In a joint statement, the two organizations noted that 95 percent of agencies reported last year that they were at risk of losing electronic records. Obama’s memo “puts in place a structure to begin addressing the problem” they said, but cautioned that lack of money will be a major hurdle.
“We look forward to working with the administration on this initiative — which is essential to accountable government — and will be following its implementation closely to make sure the resources of funds, attention and personnel are put in place to ensure its success,” said Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org.