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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Federal Records A Mess, CREW Study Says

Based on months of research and the results of an on-line survey, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released a report today, Record Chaos: The Deplorable State of Electronic Record Keeping in the Federal Government, concluding that the federal government is severely mismanaging its electronic records. The report and its findings and recommendations are available at www.citizensforethics.org.

Despite the ready availability of off-the-shelf products that would allow federal agencies to manage their records electronically, agencies continue to cling to outdated, inefficient and ineffective paper record keeping systems. The federal government has fallen woefully behind its private sector counterparts and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has failed to affirmatively assist agencies in developing and implementing records management policies as the Federal Records Act requires.
Record Chaos is based on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to a variety of agencies for their record keeping guidance, follow-up FOIA requests to test agencies’ ability to locate and produce email, and an on-line survey CREW, with the assistance of OpenTheGovernment.org, submitted to 400 agency records managers.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today, "The law requires the government to preserve federal records, which ultimately belong not to any single administration, but to the American people. These records, which often document serious policy matters, are being lost to future generations who might learn from them." Sloan continued, "In addition, those like CREW, who seek records from the government under the Freedom of Information Act or other statutes clearly are being deprived of those records, not necessarily due to malice, but rather incompetence."

Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will release proposed legislation amending federal record keeping laws to require agencies and the president to address this government-wide problem. Unfortunately, the proposal is anemic and fails to make the substantial changes necessary to bring the federal government into the 21st century. CREW has prepared a comprehensive analysis of the legislation.
Record Chaos: The Deplorable State of Electronic Record Keeping in the Federal Government and CREW's analysis of the proposed legislation are available at www.citizensforethics.org.

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