Access and Feeds

Federal Records Management: Guidance on Metadata and Cloud Computing Still Lacking

By Formtek

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) periodically audits the effectiveness of records management policies being implemented by both NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) and federal agencies.  In May 2015, the GAO issued an updated report on the progress of Records Management implementation.

The GAO noted that many agencies are totally swamped with new sources of information that should be classified as records.  GAO auditors noted that “greater reliance on electronic communication and information technology systems has radically increased the volume and diversity of information that agencies must manage.”

The GAO report found that, in general, most agencies are keeping pace with a set of directives regarding records management that were described in a 2012 White House directive.  Two primary goals of the 2012 directive are to be able to preserve all emails records by 2016 and to achieve a general agency-wide system of electronic records by 2019.  But there were certain categories of the directive where deadlines were missed.

One element of the 2012 directive that is still missing is that NARA is to a have provided guidance to agencies on how to treat record metadata.  This is an important element in electronic record keeping because metadata needs to be properly captured and saved in order for later searches to be able to locate record data. The report said that “an effort by the Archives to move agencies toward greater automation failed to include the required metadata requirements in its guidance.  Without that the federal government may be hindered in its efforts to improve performance and promote openness and accountability through the reform of records management.”

Another element that hasn’t been fully specified for federal agencies is cloud computing.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been designated to provide guidance to agencies for how to utilize the cloud and be able to store records off-premise, but the ONB not yet done that.  This, despite the fact that federal agencies are already spending more than $2 billion on cloud computing.


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