NARA to adopt a paperless format by 2022

by Phil Lee, Senior VP of Sales

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As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is charged with archiving the 1–3% of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government that are deemed so important for legal or historical reasons that they must be kept forever.

Now, in a move to require federal agencies to embrace the electronic age, NARA has announced that it will be fully transitioning to electronic recordkeeping and no longer accepting paper records by the end of 2022.

Consequently, NARA has set a deadline for federal agencies to make their records suitable for electronic access and transfer. See the federal National Archives page to learn about NARA’s full plan of action.

The move to paperless federal archives is already underway

As 2016 came to an end, federal entities were required to store all email records in electronic format. By the end of 2019, the policy will extend to all media formats, including documents and social media posts.

NARA is taking additional steps to move to an all-electronic archive. For starters, all file transfers of permanent and temporary records and their metadata will no longer be accepted in analog format.

NARA also pledged to digitize over 500 million pages of existing records on the Archives catalog by fiscal year 2020. By 2021, 82% of agency holdings will also be digitized and available for public access.

Does this mean that NARA is completely abandoning paper? No. The organization has also affirmed that steps will be taken to preserve existing paper and analog records.

Undertaking a compliance audit

NARA will also be taking an active auditing role. By fiscal year 2019, it will begin ensuring federal agency compliance by routinely auditing 10% of agencies to ensure they’re following digital recordkeeping protocol.

NARA’s Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer indicated that plans are underway to increase auditing capacity, with a heavier emphasis on electronic records and email management.

A drastic overhaul required

To make the aforementioned changes possible, there will need to be a drastic overhaul in technology and policy updates.

According to a federal records management expert, government entities will not be able to meet these demands by the 2022 deadline under current technology and recordkeeping methods. There will need to be a significant investment in technology solutions geared towards big data, content analytics, and cognitive systems.

All of this is in service to NARA’s mission to “cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value government records.”


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