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T: 202.357.5900
f: 202.357.5901
Memorandum for:
March 15, 2017
Senior Agency Officials for Records Management
David S. Ferriera
Archivist of the United States
Records Management Priorities for 2017
Federal agencies and officials must remain aware of the laws, regulations, and guidance
governing how records and information are identified and managed in compliance with the
Federal Records Act and its recordkeeping requirements. Managing government records is
essential not only to ensure agency activities are documented in order to meet legal
requirements, but also to preserve our Nation's history for future generations. As a designated
Senior Agency Official for Records Management (SAORM), you bear a special responsibility for
ensuring your agency meets its obligations.
NARA has identified a need to modernize recordkeeping practices across the Government with
specific actions required for all agencies related to the management of email and permanent
electronic records. With the December 2016 requirement for managing all email records
electronically having just come into effect, the next focus area is the requirement that your
agency manage all permanent electronic records electronically by December 31, 2019 (see
OMS/NARA M-12-18, Managing Government Records Directive).
In addition to stressing the need to address these important requirements, I would like to
identify three high-visibility records and information management topics that agencies must
address in the coming year: electronic messaging and encrypted messages; managing web
records; and ensuring that all staff, especially incoming political appointees, are properly trained
on their responsibilities for records management.
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Electronic Messaging and Encrypted Messages
The Federal Records Act, as amended in 2014, defines a record as "all recorded information,
regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law
or in connection with the transaction of public business .... " This includes messages created
using an ever increasing variety of electronic messaging platforms. Further, electronic messages
related to the conduct of agency business are presumed to be Federal records.
Agencies are responsible for properly managing electronic messages that are Federal records,
whether they are SMS texts, encrypted communications, direct messages on social media
platforms, email, or created on any other type of electronic messaging system or account. This
also includes managing official alias or group accounts, where multiple individuals may be
involved in the day-to-day operation of the account. Regardless of how many Federal electronic
messaging or email accounts individuals use to conduct official business, agencies must ensure
that all accounts are managed and identifiable according to Federal recordkeeping
In addition, if an agency employee uses a non-official or personal electronic messaging account
to conduct agency business, they must copy or forward the record to their official electronic
messaging account within 20 calendar days of the original creation, receipt, or transmission of
the record. NARA advises using personal devices or accounts to conduct official business should
only be done in exigent circumstances.
There have been several recent news stories referring to the possible use by government
employees of non-official, commercial communication applications, such as WhatsApp, Signal,
Confide, and others that support encryption or the ability to automatically delete messages after
they are read or sent. Any use of such communication applications requires coordination with
your legal counsel and records management officials to ensure compliance with the Federal
Records Act and related regulations. Agencies are responsible for setting policies and
procedures that govern the use of these applications prior to their deployment and must take
steps to manage and preserve records created through their use for as long as required.
Managing Web Records
Agencies must identify and manage all Federal records in accordance with NARA guidance,
including the records and data sets available on agency websites. NARA presumes that much of
the information presented on agency websites meets the definition of a Federal record and
should be managed accordingly. As such, the records must be scheduled and can only be
disposed of in accordance with a NARA-approved records schedule.
Agencies should work with their NARA appraisal archivist to identify, appraise, schedule, and
transfer Federal web records of permanent value. To help agencies do this, NARA has issued
guidance for the scheduling, managing, and transferring of web records in NARA Guidance on
Managing Web Records and Format Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Records.
Records Management Training
There are several new requirements that agencies should be aware of to ensure that all
incoming government personnel, Including political appointees, are properly trained in their
records management responsibilities. At our last SAORM meeting in December 2016, my staff
provided a briefing on NARA Bulletin 2017-01. Agency Records Management Training
Requirements. The Bulletin specifies how often agency records management training must be
taken, identifies personnel who must complete the training, and describes mandatory training
content. The Bulletin requires that new personnel receive records management training within
60 days of employment. NARA has produced several products to assist agencies with this
• Records Management Training 101 (developed in collaboration with the Federal Records
Officer Network),
• Documenting Your Public Service,
• Records Management Guidance for Political Appointees (including training materials and
a video briefing), and
• Model Federal Records and Information Management Entrance and Exit Checklists.
Good recordkeeping practices are necessary to meet your mission responsibilities in an efficient
and effective manner. Through proper records management you will be able to meet your
obligations under the Federal Records Act to document actions and decisions and transfer
permanently valuable records to the National Archives of the United States.
My staff is available to provide in-person briefings at your agency to help you understand these
critical records management responsibilities. For more information, or to arrange a briefing,
please contact Laurence Brewer, the Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government, at I look forward to seeing you at future SAORM meetings. Thank you
for your work in preserving our Nation's history.
Archivist of the United States

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