Several of our coalition partners and allies have weighed in on the President's Memorandum on Managing Government Records. The initiative requires each agency head to report on their current plans for improving records management programs, to outline current obstacles to sound, cost-effective records management policies, and to catalog potential reforms and improvements.
WASHINGTON, November 28, 2011 - OpenTheGovernment.org and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) applaud the President's Memo on Managing Government Records for taking critical steps towards instituting effective and efficient records management in the federal government. As past experiences demonstrated, failing to properly manage records, especially email, creates an unacceptable risk of losing valuable information that is necessary to understand the development of national policies and to hold officials accountable for their decisions.
Recently, our community became aware of a move in the US Federal Courts to dispose of large numbers of court records. This is not as draconian as it may seem at first read. We checked in with the National Archives and Records Administration – just to make sure this destruction was known to and approved by them. It is. NARA told us:
Strong records management practices are the backbone of open and accountable government: if federal employees cannot efficiently find records, they cannot be fully responsive to public requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to discovery in litigation, or to Congressional requests for information.
Today, much of the work of the federal government is done in a completely digital environment. Memos letters, reports, etc., are born and saved on computers; federal workers correspond over email; federal entities are on facebook, twitter, YouTube, and more. As the amount of work done digitally has grown, so have the number of electronic records produced by the federal government. Unfortunately, as a report by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) shows, the federal government is not doing a good job of managing those records.
More than 30 organizations and 125 individuals joined OpenTheGovernment.org in thanking the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for calling on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to account for the illegal destruction of videotapes showing the torture of detainees at CIA black sites.
OpenTheGovernment.org was joined by twenty-two other organizations concerned with accountability and transparency, including several coalition partners, in sending a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in support of H.R. 1387, the Electronic Message Preservation Act, and urging them to take up the bill before the end of the year. H.R.
OpenTheGovernment.org and 45 organizations concerned with transparency and accountability sent a letter to the Information Policy Subcommittees in the Senate and House to hold hearings on the apparent destruction of emails in the Department of Justice to determine how the e-mails could be missing despite the requirements of the Federal Records Act (FRA), and if the FRA needs further strengthening.
OpenTheGovernment.org Testimony on "Stakeholders' Views on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
OpenTheGovernment.org Director Patrice McDermott submitted testimony at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives on qualifications for the next Head Archivist of the United States and NARA's obligation to manage electronic records.