The AFHS’s collection of hard copy originals of cycle physical exam reports and completed questionnaires; the subject’ medical, military administrative, and vital status records; research reference materials; and copies of the study’s reports and papers take up ~5,350 cubic feet of records storage systems space (AFHS, 2005b). All have been scanned and the images1 stored in electronic files in Portable Document Format (PDF).
The two primary considerations in evaluating the disposition of the hard copy records are compliance with the Federal Records Act and retention for further research purposes. These are addressed below.
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has regulations (termed instructions) defining records management responsibilities (USAF, 2003) and the proper disposition of records (USAF, 1994). The latter document directs that no records be disposed of “without the specific authority of the Archivist of the United States” (§ 1.1.1) and indicates that “valuable research records” are generally sent to the Archive’s Washington National Records Center for evaluation and either transfer to permanent storage or destruction (§ 126.96.36.199).
A threshold issue is thus whether any of the resources of the AFHS are subject to the requirements of the Federal Records Act, which requires agencies to “make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the … decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency … designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency’s activities” (44 USC § 3101). As defined by the Act, records include the following:
All books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of data in them. (44 USC § 3301)
Using this definition, the biologic specimens collected during the AFHS are not subject to the Act and can be handled pursuant to the recommendations of-