B Conclusions from the General Accounting Office Report Information Management: Challenges in Managing and Preserving Electronic Records
In 2002, the General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a review of NARA’s ERA program. The excerpts below from the GAO report indicate some of the challenges to successful execution that were identified at that time.
In response to the challenges associated with managing and preserving electronic records, NARA has performed an assessment of governmentwide records management—an important first step that identified several problems, including the inadequacy of guidance on electronic records, the low priority generally given to records management, and the lack of technology tools to manage electronic records. While NARA has plans to improve its guidance and address the need for technology, it has not yet formulated a strategy to deal with the stature of records management programs across government. Further, it has no strategy for acquiring the kind of comprehensive information on records management that would be provided by systematic inspections and evaluations of federal records programs. Without such a strategy, records management will likely continue to be considered a low-priority “support” activity lacking appropriate management attention, and NARA will not acquire information needed to address problems in agency records management and guidance. Inadequacies in records management put at risk records that may be valuable: records providing information on essential government functions, information that is necessary to protect government and citizen interests, and information that is significant for the historical record.
NARA’s effort to acquire an advanced electronic records archive is at risk. NARA is not meeting its schedule for the ERA system, largely because of flaws in how the schedule was developed. As a result, the schedule will be compressed, leaving less time for completing essential planning tasks. In addition, NARA has not yet improved IT management capabilities that would reduce the risks inherent in its effort to acquire ERA. Without these capabilities, NARA risks spending funds to acquire a system that does not meet mission needs and requirements, effectively work with existing systems, or provide adequate security over the information it contains.1