Statement of the Bauman Foundation on Presidential Memo on Managing Government Records

Statement on Presidential Memo on Managing Government Records

Gary D. Bass, Executive Director
November 28, 2011

The Bauman Foundation applauds President Obama for tackling records management policies and practices. Records management is a core building block for creating an open government. It addresses the life cycle of records – including creation or receipt, maintenance and use, and disposition of records – and is essential for the proper documentation of policies and transactions of the government and the effective management of agency operations.

President Obama’s memo on Managing Government Records introduces sound reforms for beginning to bring government operations into the 21st century. The current records management framework is outdated and no longer suited for a government largely operating with electronic records and cloud-based solutions. Under the memo, within 30 days each executive agency must designate a senior official to oversee the development of a records management plan. Within four months, agencies are to prepare reports that describe the agency’s records management plans, obstacles to improving records management, and ideas for improving records management. Within four months after agencies submit their reports, OMB and NARA will issue a directive requiring agencies to take specific actions to improve policies and practices.

We are pleased that OMB and NARA will seek public input on the directive. We hope that agencies will also seek public input on their reports as well – and will make their reports publicly available.

We believe the memo establishes a direction for creating government-wide technology for managing electronic records, including cloud-based records. If so, this will be a significant and vitally important step in records management.

The presidential memo is undoubtedly a good first step to reforming records management. However, the best policy intentions can wither with poor implementation strategies. In this case, the president has attempted to ensure successful implementation through the directive developed by OMB and NARA. This will be most useful, although OMB and NARA will need help from the White House during the implementation phase. For example, will there be adequate resources for reforming records management? Will the White House confirm this is a top priority for agencies?

There will be questions to be addressed as the process moves forward. Today, though, we congratulate the president for moving us down the path to better electronic records management, so that we can begin raising such questions. Today’s actions are essential elements for creating an open, transparent and accountable government.

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The Bauman Foundation, a nonprofit private foundation created in 1987, makes grants in support of government accountability and transparency.

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