NARA Issues Annual Self-Assessment of Federal Agency Records Management

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently released its 2011 Records Management Self-Assessment Report. NARA’s findings are similar to last year’s. The responses indicated that a large majority of Federal agencies that responded remain at high to moderate risk of compromising the integrity, authenticity, and reliability of their records.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Most agencies do not have adequate controls for major activities of their records management programs;
  • Many records management staff have insufficient knowledge and understanding of electronic records, which leads to the continued implementation of poor recordkeeping practices;
  • The majority of respondents provided materials that did not support their responses to one or more questions in the self-assessment;
  • Nearly a quarter of the respondent agencies do not conduct records management training for their senior officials, and;
  • Agencies risk improper management and disposition of records or, in some cases, they are saving their records but not taking the necessary steps to ensure that they can be retrieved, read, or interpreted.

In May 2011, NARA issued the mandatory annual records management self-assessment (RMSA) to Federal agencies. The goal of the self-assessments is to determine whether Federal agencies are compliant with statutory and regulatory records management requirements.

The report also revealed some positive trends. There was a slight increase in the number of agencies that scored in the Low Risk category. In addition, a number of agencies have in place or are working on guidance for managing records in social media and web 2.0 platforms as well as cloud computing environments. Federal agencies recognize the need for performance metrics for their records management programs, and several agencies have established sophisticated metrics that can serve as a model for others. Also, agencies are increasingly transferring their permanent electronic records to NARA using the Electronic Records Archives, NARA’s strategic initiative to preserve and provide long-term access to the electronic records of the Federal Government.

Agencies can use RMSA data to chart their own programs. NARA uses the annual RMSA as a tool to monitor and oversee Federal records management programs. The work reflected in this report was accomplished prior to the issuance of the Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records, which requires each agency to designate a senior official to supervise an evaluation of the agency’s records management program. Data from the RMSAs and agency submissions in response to the Presidential Memorandum, will give NARA a Government-wide base of information from which to develop the Records Management Directive.

NARA has the authority to inspect the records management programs and practices of Federal agencies under 44 U.S.C. 2904 and 2906. NARA evaluates agencies for compliance with requirements stated in 44 U.S.C. Chapters 31 and 33 and the regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) – specifically Subchapter B – Records Management of 36 CFR Chapter XII.

The report may be downloaded from NARA’s website [].