White House threatens to veto e-mail storage bill

Ahead of a scheduled House vote Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto a bill aimed at forcing the president and federal agencies to improve preservation of e-mail records.

House aides said that while they expect the measure to get bipartisan support, it will be considered under regular rules because of the veto threat.

The bill has generated some Republican opposition due to a provision the White House says gives the National Archives and Records Administration new responsibility for overseeing White House record-keeping.

The legislation would upset "delicate separation of powers" created in the 1978 Presidential Records Act and would "require the archivist to intrude, in an excessive and inappropriate manner, into the activities of an incumbent president and his or her staff," the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy issued Tuesday.

Introduced by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and two committee Democrats, the bill attempts to legislate a fix to problems that have left the Bush White House unable to find hundreds of days' worth of e-mails.

A committee investigation into the missing e-mails focused on the White House's scrapping of an e-mail records system created during the Clinton administration and eventual reliance on a less-sophisticated system that one former White House technology officer called "primitive." A committee report cites e-mail preservation problems faced by the Clinton White House as well.

The bill would require the National Archives to set standards for White House electronic records and to report annually to Congress on implementation of its recommendations.

Archive officials as well as the White House have said argued the bill unnecessarily expands the agency's job from advice to oversight.

But at a House Rules Committee hearing Tuesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Information Policy Subcommittee Chairman William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., said the bill, of which he is a co-sponsor, only affirms the National Archives' job of advising the White House on record-keeping.

Clay said the bill is meant to offer a nonpartisan fix. The committee "tried to take out the hype of the controversy … and protect records in an apolitical manner," he said.

A less-discussed but farther-reaching part of the bill updates the Federal Records Act to require federal agencies, also under standards set by the National Archives, to save all e-mail records electronically and create systems to allow electronic searches.

According to the Government Accountability Office and a committee report, most agencies now use "print and file" records systems for keeping e-mail, many of them spotty. Historians and open government advocates have said that approach has not kept pace as agencies increasingly reach decisions via e-mail, causing loss of important records.

The White House argues the storage provision "is onerous and overly broad" and "could impose enormous unfunded costs on agencies."

It is not clear if the bill would require storage of instant messages, so-called wikis and emerging communication technology, the White House statement says.

"Existing policy and guidance under current law is sufficient," the statement says.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.