New email archiving method attempts to ease burden on agencies

Friday - 8/30/2013, 10:34am EDT

The National Archives and Records Administration is trying to make it easier for agencies to manage and archive the billions of emails generated by federal employees.

The agency released a bulletin Thursday explaining its newly-developed approach to email management called "Capstone." The Capstone approach seeks to help federal agencies manage all of their email records electronically by Dec. 31, 2016.

Capstone will help agencies satisfy requirements outlined by the Managing Government Records Directive, released in August of 2012. The directive aims to "develop a 21st-century framework for the management of government records."

NARA's Capstone will specifically address Goal 1.2 of the directive:

"By 2016, Federal agencies will manage both permanent and temporary email records in an accessible electronic format.

By December 31, 2016, Federal agencies must manage all email records in an electronic format. Email records must be retained in an appropriate electronic system that supports records management and litigation requirements (which may include preservation-in­-place models), including the capability to identify, retrieve, and retain the records for as long as they are needed. Beginning one year after issuance of this directive, each agency must report annually to OMB and NARA the status of its progress toward this goal."

The Capstone approach is designed to "preserve permanently valuable email and provide a pathway to dispose of temporary email." The approach accomplishes this goal through use of an automated system, rather than relying on agencies to manually sort emails. The bulletin said these changes will be especially helpful as agencies move toward cloud-based solutions.

NARA outlines several advantages of using the Capstone approach:

  • Cuts down reliance on print-and-file, click-and-file, drag-and-drop or other user-dependent policies

  • Optimizes access to records to respond more quickly and effectively to FOIA requests

  • Reduces the risk of unauthorized destruction of email records

  • Eases the burden of email management on the end user

To adopt the Capstone approach, agencies need to identify email accounts that are most likely to contain records that should be preserved as permanent, according to NARA. These accounts may include department heads, agency leaders and armed forces officers.

NARA will hold workshop sessions in September and October to introduce planning for Capstone implementation.

NARA encourages agencies to adopt the Capstone approach, but it is not a requirement.

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