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Today we feature an interview with Wendy Couch of the Department of Commerce and Ron Swecker of the Department of Transportation, co-founders of the newly-formed Federal Records Officer Network (FRON).

Wendy Couch, Department of Commerce

Wendy Couch, Department of Commerce

Ron Swecker, Department of Transportation

Ron Swecker, Department of Transportation













How would you describe the FRON to a prospective member?

The FRON was initiated to formalize what has always occurred on a smaller and ad hoc basis.  Federal Records Officers (RO) would get together informally during breaks or after meetings or seminars and compare notes on RM issues. This was often followed up with exchanging emails and often more; sharing training materials, policies, procedures, and templates.

The FRON was set up as a means to provide an ongoing forum for ROs to network and discuss current and relevant issues they are currently facing. We address RM programmatic issues that exist across Federal agencies, share experiences, leverage best practices, tools, templates, and the collective efforts to address common issues.

We also realize that due to time constraints, geographic limitations, or personal preference, we provide the option to participate with the online forum hosted by OMB MAX and monthly discussions.

What motivated you to start the FRON?

The FRON was started out of our own need to discover how other records officers have addressed challenges we all face.  While every

organization is different due to a combination of mission, size, and to be honest, culture, all records officers have very similar requirements that have to be met to execute their RM programs.  We also find that many of us are developing the SAME solution at different agencies which is an incredible waste of resources.  This can also include discussing previous initiatives that have not gone well so we can all learn from mistakes.

We would like to identify the best solutions that have already been developed and leverage these across the Federal government.  These solutions come in the form of tools, templates, policies, training to name a few.

What has FRON accomplished so far?

The FRON is in its earliest stages. So far, we’ve brought people together from both small and large agencies into a network. I think it’s a monumental achievement that people are talking to one another and sharing with one another. This was happening before the FRON but the FRON promotes the collaboration on both face-to-face and virtual forums.  We are still in an infant stage and the community needs a lot of care and feeding.  We have over 100 members and we are constantly adding more representing a wide variety of agencies and geographic areas.

How can people get involved?

The FRON is open to Federal records managers. The best way to get involved is to email Wendy Couch or Ron Swecker Stay tuned for more information about leadership opportunities within the FRON.

GRS Team Update

by on December 13, 2013

The following update is from our GRS Team

Status of Current Projects

Part 1 Schedules

  • 1.1 General Financial Management Records (DAA-GRS-2013-0003)—On hold pending resolution of issues with internal stakeholders. (Lead:
  • 1.2 Grant & Cooperative Agreement Records (DAA-GRS-2013-0008)—Being revised based on agency comments. (Lead:
  • 3.1 General Technology Management Records (DAA-GRS-2013-0005)—Preparing for final internal stakeholder review. (Lead:
  • 3.2 Information Systems Security Records (DAA-GRS-2013-0006)—Preparing for final internal stakeholder review. (Lead:
  • 4.1 Records & Information Management Records (DAA-GRS-2013-0002)—Being revised based on agency comments. (Lead:
  • 4.2 Information Access & Protection Records (DAA-GRS-2013-0007)—Out for final internal stakeholder review. (Lead:
  • 4.3 Input Records, Output Records, & Electronic Copies (DAA-GRS-2013-0001)—On Federal Register. (Lead:

Part 2 Schedules: All schedules are currently in the process of initial drafting. Initial drafts are expected by the end of February at which point some agencies may be contacted for additional vetting.

  • 2.1 Employee Acquisition Records (Lead:
  • 2.2 Employee Management Records (Lead:
  • 2.5 Employee Separation Records (Lead:
  • 2.6 Employee Training Records (Lead:
  • 2.8 Employee Ethics Records (Lead:
  • 6.6 Federal Advisory Committee Records (changed from Temporary Commission, Board, Council and Committee Records) (Lead:


  • Guidance on Including General Records Schedule (GRS) Items in Agency Big Bucket Schedules—Final revisions in process; will require additional concurrence  from stakeholders prior in final internal vetting. Expected release in early Third Quarter, FY14.

Revised GRS Update Plan

The GRS Team is in the process of issuing an update on “The New GRS: A Plan for Restructuring and Updating the General Records Schedules” (issued October 2012, link is .pdf). The updated plan outlines changes to the structure of the New GRS, the project timeline, and our process for revising the schedules.

Why the GRS Update Plan Has Changed

The plan has changed due to changes in team resources and lessons learned from the first year of the project. Our team resources have been depleted over the past year, while at the same time we have learned that the optimal workload is two schedules per cycle. This currently means we can work on about six schedules at a time. We made structural changes to the GRS after learning that some of the planned schedules were too granular. We also learned that we need to change the timing of when we start new schedules so that we are not starting new schedules right before the holiday season and so that we make more efficient use of our time by overlapping project cycles.

Changes to the Schedules

The revised plan explains various changes to the overall structure of the GRS. Some schedules have been merged, others have been moved or aggregated under different functional headings. Overall the general structure of the new GRS remains largely the same. The most significant change is the aggregation of a number of formerly stand-alone schedules under the common heading “Mission Support.” The schedules under this heading have not changed significantly in and of themselves. Each X.X level is still an individual schedule containing multiple items associated with that particular function.

Changes to the Project Timeline

Another significant change to the plan is in the project timeline. There will be six cycles or rounds of schedules. We are currently working on the first and second rounds. Originally we had planned to complete each scheduling and approval cycle in just over a year, but with the first cycle nearing completion we now realize a more realistic projected completion time is 18 months. We are refocusing our project on the mandate in OMB/NARA M-12-18, Managing Government Records Directive to update and revise the existing GRS by December 2017, so some proposed schedules that were completely new will carry over into future plans for expanding the coverage of the GRS and not be part of this 5-year project.

Changes in Process and Approach

The overall process for revising and approving new GRS has changed very little. We are taking a more direct approach to agency involvement with the second round of schedules, seeking input from specific agencies rather than making a general request for volunteers for working groups. We also plan on longer vetting periods for draft schedules prior to sending them out for formal review. Other changes include how we approach new disposition instructions. For multiple reasons we have decided not to specify cutoff instructions in the new GRS, although cutoff instructions are still implied. We are also taking a different approach to disposition instructions in an attempt to reduce the need for agencies to request deviations. We are trying to write instructions that allow for more flexibility in retention when a longer or shorter retention is allowable. New GRS will provide clear instructions about when agencies can establish a longer retention for their records based on agency specific business needs without submitting a schedule for NARA approval.

For more information about these changes, please watch for the release of the updated plan on the GRS website and via RM Communication.

Upcoming Projects

  • Guidance on Requesting Deviations from the General Records Schedules—Preparing for internal review. (Lead:
  • Guidance on Implementing New General Records Schedules—Initial drafting. (Lead:
  • GRS Web Page—Planning stage for how to change the arrangement of the GRS web page and the online GRS. (Lead:

For additional information about any of the GRS Team’s projects, please contact us at, or contact the specific project lead.

A few weeks ago, we released NARA Bulletin 2014-02: Guidance on Managing Social Media Records, which superseded our previous  Bulletin on Social Media. This new Bulletin provides Federal agencies with high-level requirements and best practices for managing records created and received when using social media.

Want to learn more about the challenges agencies face in managing social media content and the considerations for scheduling and capturing this content? Beth Cron, Records Policy Analyst in our Records Management Policy Section, provided a briefing to agencies just a couple of days before we released the Bulletin. We  recorded the session. You can view it right here:

Please visit NARA’s National Records Management Training Program YouTube channel for more useful records management videos!


In September, we reported on the industry event to support automated solutions for electronic records management: Managing Government Records Directive: A Grand Challenge for Industry.  You may remember that we issued a request for information (RFI) shortly after industry day in which we asked vendors to tell the Federal information management community how their solutions or services could help automate electronic records management.  We requested responses by October 4 because of our need to start analyzing current vendor capabilities.  However, NARA continues to accept – and receive – new ones.

We have received 46 capability statements in response to the RFI so far.  That’s a great response, and an indication of the level of interest in the vendor community in providing the services we need.  Vendors described a wide range of offerings, including records management services available for installation at your site or in the cloud, integration services, and information management consulting.

The statements answer a series of questions developed by the Electronic Records Management Automation Working Group.  For this reason, the vendor responses address key questions related to agency implementation of the Managing Government Records Directive and Directive goal A3.1.

NARA issued the RFI on behalf of the Federal records and information management community. The vendor statements are a resource to help the whole Federal government transition to electronic records management and reduce the burden of managing records on end users (staff whose job is not records management). Specifically, these statements will help agencies explore automation in their plans to meet the Directive’s 2016 and 2019 goals.

Because sharing this information was the whole point, NARA and the ERM Automation Working Group have made the papers available to staff of all Federal agencies. Any Federal employee can access the vendor responses through the OMB MAX wiki of the Electronic Records Management Automation Working Group.  Simply request an account on OMB MAX and go to the following link:

You can use the papers without getting involved in the ERM Automation Working Group, but you are always welcome to participate in the ERM Automation Working Group, too.  Perhaps your colleagues on the working group can help you take the next step in implementing automation after researching vendor capabilities on the wiki – or you can share your lessons learned with others.

Today, we issued NARA Bulletin 2014-03: Guidance on Agency Records Officer Training Requirements. This  Bulletin explains how we are implementing Requirement 2.3 of the joint Office of Management and Budget and National Archives and Records Administration  Directive M-12-18: Managing Government Records.

This requirement states that by December 31, 2014, each designated Federal agency records officer must hold the NARA Certificate of Federal Records Management Training. The Bulletin describes our training program and explains the process by which current agency records officers may be granted exemptions or exceptions.

Please note this requirement applies only to the designated Federal agency records officer for each agency. A list of the designated Federal agency records officers can be found on our website.

If you have any questions about this, please contact Laurence Brewer, Director, National Records Management Training Program (Acting) at (301) 837-1539, or by e-mail to

April 2014
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