procurement regulations, for obtaining a comprehensive outside technical review of the ERA designs that are proposed by its contractors. The committee’s first report recommended that NARA establish an ongoing advisory group on digital preservation and information technology (IT) system design; such a body might be charged with carrying out a review of this type.

This final report focuses on longer-term, more strategic issues that are related to electronic records archiving at NARA, including technology and other trends that shape the context in which the ERA exists, the archival processes of the ERA itself, and the future evolution of the ERA system. In addition, it addresses an important set of technical and design issues associated with assuring record integrity and authenticity that were not covered in detail in the committee’s earlier reports.

NARA recognizes that it faces a significant challenge. The ERA program, the Records Management Redesign initiative, and NARA’s work on records management under the e-government initiative led by the Office of Management and Budget all reflect NARA’s awareness of these problems and represent positive steps in starting to address them. As the findings and recommendations below indicate, electronic records represent both a substantial challenge and a significant opportunity for NARA.

The committee’s findings and recommendations are organized under and support the following six high-level recommendations:

  1. Get ready for a rapidly rising tide of electronic records.

  2. Plan for continuing technology change and increasing user expectations.

  3. Reengineer relations with federal agencies to help them create records that are archive-ready.

  4. Do not assume that ERA is unique: become more involved with other organizations that have interests in preserving electronic records.

  5. Learn how to exploit the enthusiasm and capabilities of the research community and work with others who do that well.

  6. Take strong measures internally and provide government-wide leadership to ensure record integrity and provenance.

These recommendations are discussed in more detail below.


Finding 1.1 Within a short time, the vast majority of records will be electronic. The volume of records and the challenge of preserving them will continue to grow significantly.

Four technology effects are creating an avalanche of digital materials: the growing fraction of information that is born digital and not systematically retained on paper, the relative ease and inexpensiveness of recording information digitally compared with the effort and cost of recording it on paper, the advent of new technologies for communicating and recording information, and the decreasing cost of storage, which drives the retention of information that previously would have been discarded.

It is reasonable to expect that the growth in the amount of digital information produced in society at large will likewise occur in government—and thus the growth in the volume of permanent records. The volume of data to be stored will also grow because individual records

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