12 Days of Open Government Resolutions – Day 12: Set Interim Steps and Deadlines for Records Management

Each post in the series of posts we plan to publish between now and December 25 focuses on a resolution the Obama Administration realistically can use to make the federal government more open and accountable in the coming year. See below for links to previous resolutions.

Open Government Resolution 12 for the Obama Administration – Encourage the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to set shorter interim steps and deadlines to implement the Records Management Directive

Good records management policies are the backbone of open government. If the government cannot find or preserve records, it cannot with any degree of certainty properly respond to requests for information from the public, Congressional overseers, or agency management. Recent surveys by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) demonstrate the weakness of the federal government's current records management system: according to the 2011 Records Management Self-Assessment Report, most agencies are at risk of losing or destroying records.

On August 24, 2012, NARA and the Office of Management and Budget released the long-awaited Managing Government Records Directive.  There is much for the open government community to like in the Directive: a requirement that agencies designate a senior official to oversee records management and an emphasis on managing records in the cloud, for example.

One big thing open government advocates do not like, however – deadlines far out into this decade that mean it will be many more years before we can say with any certainty that federal government agencies are not improperly destroying or otherwise losing records.

The Administration should encourage NARA to set shorter interim steps and deadlines to implement the Directive. These steps and deadlines will help keep agency focus on the importance of properly managing government records, and help the Administration, NARA, and the public know what agencies are (or are not) doing to meet the Directive's goals.

12 Days of Open Government Resolutions for the Obama Administration:

Resolution 1: Begin gathering public input for Version 2 of the US National Action Plan

Resolution 2: Make it easier for the public to track agencies’ open government work

Resolution 3: Encourage Agencies to Join FOIAOnline

Resolution 4: Direct Agencies to Update their FOIA Regulations

Resolution 5: Direct agencies to make all Reports to Congress and Communications with Members of Congress available in a central location on the agency website

Resolution 11: Make authoritative interpretations of law (e.g., FISA Court opinions, OLC memos, administrative rulings) available to the public with minimal redactions to safeguard classified information

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