FIRM position paper on agency record centers : LUSENET : Federal Information and Records Managers Council : One Thread

All- Please review the paper below. Provide any comments to the discussion forum. FIRM website should be done by next week. Stay tuned for the big announcement...have a great day. CHARLEY BARTH ----------------------------------------------------------------- July 7, 1999

Regulation Comment Desk (NPOL) National Archives and Records Administration 8601 Adelphi Road College Park, MD 20740-6001 Attn: Nancy Allard

RE: FIRMs Comments on NARAs Proposed Rule on Agency Record Centers and Storage of Federal Records

This reply is a compilation of comments from the Federal Information and Records Managers (FIRM) Council. FIRM members do not represent any specific agency, even their own place of employment. As experienced and concerned professionals, they represent the interests of all Federal record managers. The purpose of FIRM is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Information and Records Managers functions in all agencies by providing a forum for sharing knowledge, resources, and methodologies for the implementation and evaluation of systems and practices. Objectives of the FIRM Council include:

A. Providing leadership to the FIRM Community as it creates partnerships with archivists, librarians, program staff, technical staff, the information industry, professional associations, and other information management professionals to: * manage the life cycle of Federal information, and * protect the nation's documentary heritage.

B. Providing advice and assistance to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); the Office of Management and Budget; the Government Accounting Office; the Office of Personnel Management; the National Institute for Standards and Technology; the General Services Administration; and other Federal entities charged with oversight of information and records management.

C. Providing a forum to advance professional knowledge and techniques through educational programs, workshops, seminars, and by sharing experiences, approaches, and information related to the records management profession.

Our comments on the proposed NARA Rule governing Storage of Federal Records follow:

1. The FIRM applauds NARAs efforts to overhaul this antiquated regulation. The proposed regulations will have an impact on tens of millions of cubic feet of records and will have long-term implications for most Federal agencies. The guidelines, as drafted, seem limited to the physical storage of paper records. Many series include records in various formats, leading to confusion in a methodology for storage of multi-media series. We propose that NARA conduct an inter-agency cost/benefit analysis to determine the costs to implement these proposed regulations. Any cost accrued by the commercial sector will undoubtedly be passed on to Federal Agencies that choose to store records apart from the Federal Record Centers. We wish to better understand the fiscal repercussions of the proposed rulemaking.

2. NARA based this regulation on technical knowledge and experience gained over the last two decades. FIRM members would like to peruse documentation on what changes have taken place and what effect these changes may have had on a Federal agencys ability to responsibly store its records. Many agencys house records where they are best accessed by the staff that needs them to do their daily work. NARA does not limit this regulation to cover only inactive records and thereby implies that all Federal records regardless of where they are stored, including those in active work areas, are covered by this regulation. Many of the buildings that currently house Federal records, including those operated by NARA, do not meet these standards. The regulations do not provide any penalties for non-compliance. Since NARA has placed the responsibility of ensuring that records in their legal custody meet these rules, the FIRM is concerned that most Federal Records Officers will not have the technical expertise to determine compliance and will merely rely on vendor reports.

3. The procedures for obtaining NARA approval are not clearly stated in the proposed rule, nor is the documentation agencies must provide defined. NARA makes reference to records being stored in an appropriate space to ensure that they remain available, but as more and more records are converted to electronic media, the geographic location of the record is less important than the metadata used to access it. Without clear metadata standards for records (in all media, including paper) access will still be a hit-or-miss proposition. Also NARA does not distinguish between the value of short term-ephemeral records and long term archival records in this regulation. Although only a small percentage of records government-wide are archival, most agencies will not be able to have separate facilities for temporary and permanent records.

4. Many of the tests upon which the requirements are based are expensive to conduct in a professional manner. NARA, as the regulator, should shoulder the burden of paying for these tests. If the industry pays for the tests, the cost will be passed back to the client through assessments on individual agency charges. Separate guidance has been issued relating to vital records protection and disaster recovery plans. The impact of these proposed rules on those facilities is also unclear. How have natural disasters like Hurricane Andrew at Homestead Air Force Base, or man-made disasters like the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing, increased our knowledge of how Federal records might best be protected? Many local municipalities have a wide variety of building code requirements that might, in some cases, limit a Federal agencys abilities to comply in certain geographic areas of the country. Has NARA worked with the Bureau of Mines to come up with guidance for the underground facilities that are currently storing Federal records?

5. How will NARA demonstrate full compliance as outlined in the text of the proposed regulation? How will an agency ensure that the commercial facility they choose complies with these regulations? What is meant by agency certification to NARA that their vendor complies? As more and more Federal agencies partner with the private sector for services not traditionally provided by NARA, cost would become a more significant part of the decision-making equation. These regulations do not take a myriad of policy factors into account including the accessibility of records under FOIA. If it is more costly to store, access, reproduce and provide the American public with the information they request, then this regulation will be little heeded. NARA is imposing additional responsibilities on the FIRM constituency, but giving Federal Records Officers no new tools to perform their jobs more effectively.

Members of the FIRM would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with NARA and industry representatives to arrive at a more practical and cost effective approach to records storage for Federal materials (including physical exhibits and record series that are in multiple media). Since the economic impact of these rules is undetermined, the FIRM Council would like to suggest that its members serve as a resource for revision of this draft proposal.


Carol Brock, CRM Chair, FIRM Council

-- Anonymous, July 08, 1999

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