Toward an All-Electronic Federal Government

September 30, 2019
By David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States


Our 2018–2022 Strategic Plan embraces a vision that ensures ongoing access to extraordinary volumes of government informa­tion in electronic forms and commits us to take significant steps to enable this transformation. In pursuit of that vision, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) continues to make great strides in transforming the way our government’s records are managed, preserved, and ultimately going to be made accessible.

One of the administration's priorities, through the President’s Management Agenda and related Cross-Agency Priority Goals, is leveraging data as a strategic asset. That is what NARA has been advocating with digital government. Data, information, and records need to be seen as strategic assets for agencies, which help drive decision-making and create better efficiencies and effectiveness at delivering services and carrying out the mission of agencies.

Consistent with these priorities, this past June we received significant support from the highest levels of government with the release of OMB M-19-21, Transition to Electronic Records. This memo, building on the successes of our first joint OMB/NARA memo released in 2012, requires agencies to transition their recordkeeping to a fully electronic environment that complies with all records management laws and regulations. Specifically, agencies are directed to ensure that all Federal records are created, retained, and managed in electronic formats with the appropriate metadata.

The memo also establishes targets for agencies to meet. By December 31, 2022, all permanent records in Federal agencies will be managed electronically, and will include appropriate metadata to the fullest extent possible, for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA as electronic records. In tandem with that target, after December 31, 2022, we will, to the fullest extent possible, no longer accept new transfers of records in analog formats. 

We will be issuing additional guidance to agencies on these new requirements over the next few months, and we will update our regulations relating to the digitization of permanent records. The regulations with digitization standards for temporary records were updated and finalized this spring. See our blog post about this on Records Express.

We are in the process of shifting the entire government away from paper and to all-electronic recordkeeping, and we play a major role in helping the agencies get to that point. Our new strategic plan is the roadmap; by putting records management and digital preservation at the forefront of our priorities, we will help drive greater efficiency and effectiveness while making the Federal Government more responsive to the American people.

We are pleased to have the Administration’s continuing support for modernizing Federal agency recordkeeping and bringing about the necessary transformation to a fully electronic government.
The new memo is a culmination of all the good work done by Federal agencies and NARA since 2012. It reinforces our commitment to digital government and recognizes the progress agencies have made in managing their email and other electronic records electronically.

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