GAO Questions NARA’s Readiness to Accept Bush Records in January 2009

In a report to Congress issued this week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) questioned the readiness of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to begin accepting the Bush administration’s records on January 20, 2009. GAO expressed concerns that NARA has yet to develop a plan to mitigate the risk of not having a fully functional system in place on Inauguration Day.

According to the GAO’s report, NARA’s proposed schedule for developing a mitigation plan at the end of 2008 will leave it little time to prepare for and implement the plan, “decreasing the assurance that it will be adequately prepared to meet the requirements of the Congress, the incoming President, and the courts for information contained in the previous administration’s records.”

To preserve and provide access to all types of electronic records, for many years NARA has been developing an Electronic Records Archive (ERA), including a base system for federal records.

However, because of delays in the rollout of the ERA, a separate system for presidential records, known as the Executive Office of the President (EOP) system, was developed. The EOP system uses a different architecture from that of the ERA base. It is being built on a commercial product that is to provide the basic requirements for processing presidential electronic records, such as rapid ingestion of records and the ability to search content. NARA officials believe the development of the EOP system will adequately handle most incoming presidential records.

GAO had raised these similar concerns at a NARA oversight hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. At that time, GAO said, “it is uncertain whether the EOP system will be developed to the point that it can receive the Bush records in January 2009.”

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