OpenTheGovernment.org’s Patrice McDermott and 14 other civil society open government leaders recently published a proposal detailing five ways the next President can demonstrate commitment to strengthening records accountability. The proposal highlights the widespread problems with electronic records management in the federal government, in large part because agencies do not systematically manage their email in standardized record-keeping systems.
The recommendations include:
- Within six months each Senior Agency Official for Records Management, working with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), shall develop and implement agency-wide records management training for all agency employees and contractors performing agency functions.
- Within six months each Chief Technology Officer or their equivalent shall report to the agency head on the status of their agency’s record keeping systems and the progress they have made toward satisfying the requirements of the August 24, 2012 memorandum issued by the Office of Management and Budget, “Managing Government Records Directive.”
- Within nine months each Inspector General, working with each Senior Agency Official for Records Management, shall report to the agency head on steps the agency has taken with respect to subparagraphs (1) and (2).
- Within 12 months the head of each agency or designated senior agency official shall report to the President on the status of the agency’s compliance with the August 24, 2012 OMB memorandum.
- Within 12 months, and every two years thereafter, each agency shall develop an open records plan, with public engagement, that identifies the key steps the agency will take to ensure ongoing compliance with all federal records requirements. Each recommendation also includes a window of time for completion.
The proposal notes the steps the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has already taken to address the problem, including a commitment as part of the United States’ 2nd Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, to work with federal agencies to implement new guidance for managing email. NARA also provided a “Capstone” model approach for agencies to manage email, of which openness advocates are “cautiously supportive,” while remaining concerned about its implementation.
As the proposal states, “The issues raised by [Secretary Clinton’s] emails are not new, but the political climate and ongoing wave of media attention to the issue has led to a heightened public attention to the government’s digital records preservation policies.” The advocates argue that this represents an unprecedented opportunity to urge the federal government to improve openness, accountability, and preservation of records in the digital age.
Read the full proposal here.