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The National Archives and the Open Government Initiative

by on January 22, 2010


The National Archives is working on responding to the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive of December 2009, which was issued to promote new lines of communication and cooperation between the federal government and the American people.

The Open Government Directive is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/documents/open-government-directive.

Stay tuned for updates!


Comments

Brand Niemann February 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

How would NARA feel about having government employees “put their desktop in the cloud” as not only a way to save infrastrucuture costs and increase collaboration, but also a way to preserve the artifacts of their careeer so when they retire the people have a record!

Kristen (admin) February 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Interesting question Brand! NARA’s currently exploring these very ideas. Maybe we’ll be able to do a post about it some time in the future.

Patricia Gerard February 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Has the Obama Administration’s Open Government initiative caused NARA to change any policies? I read that NARA has over 20 major categories that are covered by general retention schedules. What categories are covered and how do government agencies not covered go about submitting their retention schedules to NARA? Do you believe there is a connection between retention schedules and transparency?

Meredith (Admin) March 2, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Those are great questions! To answer them, we talked to Paul Wester, head of NARA’s Modern Records Department. Here’s what he had to say:

Absolutely! There is a clear connection between records retention (or control) schedules and transparency. Publicly available records control schedules let citizens know more about what kinds of records their Federal Government creates. While there have been no specific records management policy changes related to Open Government initiative yet, effective records management is essential to a Federal Government that values transparency, participation, and collaboration.

Let us tell you more about the records scheduling process and the availability of approved records control schedules at the National Archives.

First, each Federal agency is responsible for establishing a records management program and managing their records and business information. Part of having an agency records management program includes identifying series of records and proposing disposition for approval by the Archivist of the United States through records control schedules. The process is more fully described in our “Frequently Asked Questions about Records Scheduling and Disposition,” found on our website at: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/faqs/scheduling.html

Second, you read correctly that there are over 20 major categories of what we call General Records Schedules (GRS). To be precise, there are 25 active categories. The GRSs are issued by the Archivist of the United States to provide disposition authorization for records common to several or all agencies of the Federal Government. They include records relating to civilian personnel, fiscal accounting, procurement, communications, printing, and other common functions, and certain nontextual records. They also include records relating to temporary commissions, boards, councils and committees. These records comprise an estimated one third of the total volume of records created by Federal agencies. You can review the GRS on our website at: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/ardor/records-schedules.html

Third, and most recently (like Friday, February 26, 2010), NARA launched a records control schedule website that allows the public and Federal agencies to browse scanned copies of unclassified, NARA-approved records control schedules. We currently have NARA-approved schedules from 1985 to the present loaded, with more schedules added weekly. For more context and information about this online resource, and to browse the repository itself, please go to our records control schedule website at: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/rcs/

Again, thanks for submitting such great questions!

Meredith
NARA’s Open Government Team

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