NARA: Agency record-keeping not up to par

Friday - 3/4/2011, 5:10pm EST

Paul Wester, Director, NARA's modern records program

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By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

The National Archives and Records Administration says nearly every agency's record management capabilities are at risk.

NARA surveyed departments and agencies and found 95 percent are in the high-to-moderate-risk level when it comes to their record keeping.

Paul Wester, director of the modern records program at NARA, told the DorobekINSIDER Friday their survey was aimed at identifying problems agencies might be having with their systems.

"We asked agencies a series of questions about how well they had controls in place to handle the records their agencies are creating," said Wester. Wester said NARA conducted the survey to make sure agencies can find the records and information within their organizations as part of how they carry out their mission and protect citizens' rights and the government's rights in those records.

The assessment also focused on the agency's ability to identify and transfer documents such as the permanently valuable records that help document the national experience. From this assessment, NARA hopes to bring light to records systems issues agencies might be having.

"If we [NARA] are not able to identify those records and bring them into the National Archives, we can't provide history to future generations," Wester said.

To help agencies resolve their possible system faults, NARA provides guidelines and regulations for agencies to follow.

"Through our survey, we can give everyone an idea of what best practices are being used in other agencies that may be helpful to an agency's records and information management program," Wester said.

He added the assessment did not cover why there are problems with agency records keeping and was only meant to give a current "snapshot" of where they stood. NARA will conduct this survey every year. "We intend to build the information based on what we have on agencies and encourage agencies to use the information that they report us as a measuring stick to see how well they are doing over time."

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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