Appendixes



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Appendixes

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A Background on NARA and the ERA Program This appendix, which is drawn entirely from various National Archives and Records Administration publications, has been prepared to provide the reader with some background on NARA, its conceptualization and plans for the ERA program, and related matters. The committee feels that it would be more effective, particularly given the time constraints under which the report was prepared, to let NARA speak for itself on these issues. BACKGROUND ON NARA’S MISSION FROM THE NARA WEB SITE AND THE NARA STRATEGIC PLAN What Is NARA? The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is an independent federal agency that preserves our nation’s history and defines us as a people by overseeing the management of all federal records.1 NARA’s Mission NARA ensures, for the citizen and the public servant, for the President and for the Congress and the Courts, ready access to essential evidence.2 1   National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Undated. “What Is The National Archives & Records Administration?” Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/about_us/what_is_nara/what_is_nara.html>. 2   National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Undated. “NARA’s Vision, Mission, and Values.” Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/about_us/vision_mission_values.html>.

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What Does NARA Do? The National Archives and Records Administration is our national record keeper. It is a public trust that safeguards the records on which people of a democratic republic depend for documenting their individual rights, for ensuring the accountability and credibility of their national institutions, and for analyzing their national experience. Both the Government and the public rely on NARA to meet an almost unlimited range of information needs from records. Such records are essential for congressional oversight committees to evaluate agencies, for veterans to prove their entitlements to such benefits as medical care, for citizens to discover their families’ histories, and for Holocaust survivors to trace assets looted from them by the Nazis. These are just a few of the many uses made of U.S. Government records. The records we preserve and make available every day directly affect the lives of millions of our citizens as well as the understanding we have of our nation’s history.3 NARA’s Responsibilities NARA is responsible for issuing records management guidance; working with agencies to implement effective controls over the creation, maintenance, and use of records in the conduct of agency business; providing oversight of agencies’ records management programs; and providing storage facilities for certain temporary agency records. The Federal Records Act also authorizes NARA to conduct inspections of agency records and records management programs. NARA works with agencies to identify and inventory records, appraise their value, and determine whether they are temporary or permanent, how long the temporary records should be kept, and under what conditions both the temporary and permanent records should be kept. This process is called scheduling. No record may be destroyed unless it has been scheduled, and for temporary records the schedule is of critical importance because it provides the authority to dispose of the record after a specified time period. Records are governed by schedules that are specific to an agency or by a general records schedule, which covers records common to several or all agencies. According to NARA, records covered by general records schedules make up about a third of all federal records. For the other two thirds, NARA and the agencies must agree upon specific records schedules. Once a schedule has been approved, the agency must issue it as a management directive, train employees in its use, apply its provisions to temporary and permanent records, and evaluate the results.4 Scheduling Records NARA designates records as permanent if they have sufficient historical or other value to warrant their continued preservation by the Government. Such records may be kept mainly because they document an agency’s origins, organization, functions, and significant transac- 3   National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 2000 (revised). Ready Access to Essential Evidence: The Strategic Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration 1997-2007. Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/about_us/strategic_planning_and_reporting/2000_strategic_plan.html> 4   Government Accounting Office (GAO). 2002. Information Management: Challenges in Managing and Preserving Electronic Records (GAO-02-586). GAO, Washington, D.C., June. Available online at <http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-02-586>.

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tions and activities. Or they may be kept mainly because they document the persons, places, things, or matters dealt with by an agency; that is, because they contain information with significant research or reference value. […] Comparatively few records are permanent, although the exact proportion varies from agency to agency and from office to office.5 BACKGROUND ON THE ELECTRONIC RECORDS ARCHIVES PROGRAM From the Mission Needs Statement The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) ensures, for the private citizen and all branches of the Government, ready access to essential evidence that documents the rights of citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience. NARA is a public trust which plays a key role in fostering effective and responsible government through management of the lifecycle of records in all three branches of the Federal Government and through sustained access to historically valuable records in the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries. These records enable people to inspect what the Government has done, allow officials and agencies to review their actions, and help citizens hold the Government accountable. These records are rich and varied sources of information that Americans use to answer questions they have about our past. Increasingly, these records are created and maintained in electronic formats. To continue to fulfill its mission, NARA needs to respond effectively to the challenge posed by the diversity, complexity, and enormous volume of electronic records being created today and the rapidly changing nature of the systems that are used to create them. Electronic records pose unique difficulties including ease of erasure and advancing technology that renders records and operating systems obsolete in a short period of time. The greatest challenge to managing and preserving electronic records is that the environment is dynamic and unpredictable. America is only at the beginning of “e-government.” Technology will continue to change. Citizens, businesses and government agencies at all levels will increasingly use computers and networks. Undoubtedly, they will profit from improvements in technology to develop new and better ways to do business, and these will produce new types of electronic records and recordkeeping systems. But no one knows exactly how these things will evolve. Regardless of what the future brings, proper records will be needed to support the efficient functioning of the Government, to protect the rights of individuals and businesses, and to ensure that the Government is accountable to its citizens. Thus the challenge of electronic records is that of open-ended change played out against an enduring need. The solution itself must be dynamic, capable of responding to continuing change, and it must be sound, ensuring that electronic records delivered to future generations of Americans are as accurate decades in 5   National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 2000. Disposition of Federal Records: A Records Management Handbook (2000 Web Edition of 1997 printed publication), NARA, Washington, D.C., Chapter 4. Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/records_management/publications/disposition_of_federal_records/chapter_4.html>.

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the future as they were when first created. Unless we can solve the technological challenge of preserving electronic records, NARA will be unable to meet its statutory mission.6 […] Increasingly, our society does business by computer. To the extent that we rely on information technology in the course of our affairs, we must be able to rely on the electronic records that are the instruments and by-products of our activities. We must be able to access and use them effectively in the continuing conduct of affairs. We must be able to rely on them to define and assert our rights, and to hold our public officials accountable. Long after the needs of current affairs have been met, the essential records must serve the interests of future generations in understanding our national experience. ERA will be a comprehensive, systematic, and dynamic means for preserving virtually any kind of electronic record, free from dependence on any specific hardware or software. When operational, ERA will make it easy for NARA customers to find records they want and easy for NARA to deliver those records in formats suited to customers’ needs. Moreover, ERA’s technology promises to be useful to many kinds of archives, libraries, agencies, and businesses, regardless of size. ERA will preserve essential evidence and make it more accessible in every sector of society.7 From NARA’s “ERA Vision Statement” ERA will authentically preserve and provide access to any kind of electronic record, free from dependency on any specific hardware or software, enabling NARA to carry out its mission into the future. Vivid Description We will be a leader in innovation in electronic records archiving. In coordination with our Federal partners, we will develop policy and technical guidance to enable responsible electronic records creation and management. With help from our research partners, we will develop and maintain the technical capability to capture, preserve, describe, access and appropriately dispose of any government electronic record. We will manage a coherent, nationwide, and sustainable system for permanent archival electronic records of the Federal Government. We will develop the capability to manage Federal agency electronic records within the NARA records center system. 6   National Archives and Records Adminstration (NARA), 2002, “Electronic Records Archives: Mission Needs Statement (MNS),” p. 1. Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/electronic_records_archives/about_era/mission.html>. 7   Ibid., p. 5.

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We will ensure that anyone, at anytime, from any place, has access to the best tools to find and use the records we preserve. Our staff will be capable and consistent users of the electronic tools at every point of the life cycle. We will sustain widespread support from all our stakeholders and customers by listening to their needs, meeting their requirements, and seeking their feedback. 8 From NARA’s Electronic Records Archives Concept of Operations (ConOps)9 Section 1.2, ERA Program Overview The Archivist of the United States established the ERA Program in NARA Notice 2000-074 to address critical issues in the creation, management, and use of electronic records. As a program, ERA comprises the policies, procedures, practices, and the necessary technology that will enable NARA to build the ERA System to receive, preserve, and provide access to electronic records. The resulting ERA System will be a comprehensive, systematic, and dynamic means for preserving virtually any kind of electronic record, free from dependence on any specific hardware or software. In addition to handling the actual records, ERA also will automate electronic records life cycle management activities. ERA, when operational, will make it easy for NARA customers to find records they want, and easy for NARA to deliver those records in formats suited to customers’ needs. Section 3.0, Current Capability At this time, NARA’s archival processes for electronic records are neither fully automated nor fully integrated. The electronic records collected by NARA over the past quarter century consist primarily of data files and databases. Current accessions of records are increasing in scope, diversity, and volume. The content and internal structure of the electronic records that are being accessioned reflect a broad spectrum of programs and activities of the Federal Government. Changing technologies support new and different types of data with enhanced formats (e.g., e-mail, geospatial data, digital imagery, office automation products, etc.). In addition, the rapid growth of the Internet is fueling increased public demand for improved on-line access to the electronic records held by NARA. Consequently, all of these factors motivate the need for a system that will adequately preserve electronic records as long as they are needed, while providing access to them. 8   NARA. 2002. “Electronic Records Archives (ERA) Vision Statement.” April 18. Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/electronic_records_archives/about_era/vision.html>. 9   NARA. 2002. “Electronic Records Archives Concept of Operations (ConOps).” October 29. Available online at <http://www.archives.gov/electronic_records_archives/about_era/concept_of_operations.html>.

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Section 3.1, Background NARA is not new to the preservation of electronic records. Three decades ago, the agency developed an electronic records management strategy. Since that time, NARA has used that strategy to accession, preserve, and provide access to a significant number of highly structured electronic records. This strategy calls for the storage of data in a software and hardware-independent format (typically fixed length or delimited files in a standard character set, such as the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)), on a master and back-up copy of proven, commercially available storage media. For the storage of the data that have been accessioned, NARA adheres to prescribed environmental standards, performs annual statistical sampling to guard against any loss of data, and copies the records onto new media before any deterioration of the current media occurs. Historically, media refreshment has occurred on a 10-year cycle. NARA’s current services for providing access to electronic records in its holdings allow researchers to search NARA-created finding aids (in hard copy or on the World Wide Web) to identify what collections are available. NARA then allows researchers to obtain copies of documentation on the structure and content of those collections or to visit NARA’s facility in College Park, MD, to review that documentation and purchase copies of entire data sets for their own use. NARA also has made the content of a few of its most frequently requested collections available via the Internet. Section 3.2, Operational Overview In NARA’s current environment, systems such as the Archival Preservation System (APS) and Archival Electronic Records Inspection And Control (AERIC) system allow it to preserve the bits that make up electronic records and verify the structure and content of a limited number of types of electronic records. When fully implemented the Archives Document Review and Redaction System (ADRRES) and the Unclassified Redaction and Tracking System (URTS) may be instrumental in the access review process for electronic records. In addition, development is underway to support user access through the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and Access to Archival Databases (AAD) systems. The functional capabilities of the APS, AERIC, ADRRES, URTS, ARC, and AAD systems will be included in the long-term technical solution and suite of information technology (IT) tools for lifecycle management of records. APS, AERIC, and AAD address requirements that are specific to electronic records. These requirements will be addressed within the ERA system itself. Other existing systems address requirements that apply to other types of records. NARA intends to provide interoperability across lifecycle management applications through its target enterprise architecture. For additional information about existing systems, refer to NARA’s Baseline Characterization Document (BCD). […] Section 5.0, Concepts for the Proposed System ERA will take advantage of sound and proven technologies in order to accommodate the volume, diversity, and complexity of electronic records that NARA must address both now and in the future. Managing electronic records requires an integrated, automated process from receipt through final disposition and public access. The increased volume and complexity of the records demands this kind of management. Consequently, the ConOps described in this

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document stresses urgency for a high-level of automation that will result in changes to the current approach to managing electronic records. […] ERA must be capable of addressing electronic records for which there has been little or no front-end involvement or preparation prior to their transfer by the originating entity. Further, the user scenarios presented in this document recognize that NARA staff may act in the role of the originating entity. While the scenarios assume some degree of front-end involvement, they include the possibility that all transfers may not conform to ERA requirements. Acknowledging that the level of processing and service for nonconforming electronic records may vary, ERA will nevertheless provide a means of preserving and accessing these materials. […] Section 8.0, Analysis of the Proposed ERA Various benefits, limitations, advantages, and disadvantages of ERA are covered in this section. Section 8.1, Disadvantages and Limitations Potential disadvantages or limitations to ERA include: High development costs High costs associated with security NARA staff anxiety brought about by new responsibilities resulting from changes due to electronic records Poor NARA staff morale without proactive change management Impact on originating entities (resources required to prepare for transfer of materials to NARA, greater records management responsibilities) User misunderstanding of ERA’s relation to the universe of NARA’s holdings Section 8.2, Summary of Benefits and Advantages ERA will offer numerous benefits to NARA and record users including: The preservation of electronic records that would otherwise be lost A wider variety of electronic records in NARA holdings Consolidated electronic records administration and streamlined internal workflow More front end involvement with originating entities Higher quality accessioned electronic records New tools to support processing and review of electronic records Tools to aid in review decisions Tools for withdrawal and redaction Tools for description. Faster access to electronic records The ability to service additional record users Increased responsiveness and consistency with record users Remote access to electronic records Enhanced capabilities for searching electronic records