OpenTheGovernment.org and CREW Statement on Presidential Memo on Managing Government Records

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.

According to Anne Weismann, Chief Counsel of CREW, “Early in his Administration, the President put in place an e-mail archiving system that preserves and manages the electronic records of the White House, even the President’s Blackberry messages. We are pleased the White House is telling agencies it is time to do the same with their electronic records.”

As we have highlighted many times, the current state of electronic record management is particularly dismal: the National Archives Records Administration’s (NARA) 2010 Records Management Self-Assessment found that 95% of federal agencies self-report they are at risk of losing electronic records. The President’s Memo puts in place a structure for agencies and the Administration to begin addressing the problem by identifying obstacles to improving records management – including the lack of adequate resources—and ideas to improve records management.

We are particularly concerned that given the current strain on agency budgets, lack of funding will be a major hurdle. We urge the Administration to continue to send the message that investing in good records management is a priority, and to help agencies secure adequate resources to find solutions.

Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org said, “As the Memo states, this document only begins an effort to reform records management policies and practices. We look forward to working with the Administration on this initiative —which is essential for 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.”

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