Agencies are on the clock for digital records transitions

The Trump administration has moved forward with plans to make federal records-keeping exclusively digital, notifying agencies in a June 28 memo that they would be required to meet a series of deadlines in advance of the planned Dec. 31, 2022, date to make National Archives and Records Administration’s records fully digital.

The White House announced as part of its June 2018 reorganization plan that NARA would end its acceptance of paper records by the end of 2022, and the new memorandum from acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and Archivist of the United States David Ferriero places responsibility on all federal agencies to make sure the records they submit meet that requirement.

“The federal government spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of hours annually to create, use and store federal records in analog (paper and other non-electronic) formats,” Vought and Ferriero wrote.

“Maintaining large volumes of analog records requires dedicated resources, management attention and security investments that should be applied to more effectively managing electronic records.”

Under the memo, all federal agencies will be required to manage the entirety of their permanent electronic records in an electronic format by the end of 2019 “for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA in an electronic format.”

By the end of 2022, those agencies will have to manage all permanent records in an electronic format, while managing all temporary records either electronically or physically in a commercial storage facility. At the same time, agencies will be required to close their agency-operated storage facilities in favor of commercial facilities or Federal Records Centers.

Meanwhile, NARA has been charged with updating its electronic records guidance by 2020 with information “including electronic records storage, formats, and metadata, as well as transfer guidance.”

NARA will also have the authority to determine exceptions to the memo’s requirements, where the transition from physical to electronic records would be too burdensome or costly.

Federal employees who manage federal records will also have their job classifications updated by the end pf 2020 to include electronic records tasks and requirements.

“Agencies are encouraged to consider cost-effective opportunities to transition related business processes to an electronic environment in support of the [President’s Management Agenda] and Reform Plan. This memorandum specifically focuses on records management, and directs federal agencies to transition recordkeeping to a fully electronic environment that complies with all records management laws and regulations,” Vought and Ferriero wrote.

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