E-Mail Preservation Bill Clears House

National Archives would be required to tighten rules at White House and agencies, 46 percent of which print out and file paper copies of email.

Four years after it was first introduced, a bill to require agencies and the White House to modernize their systems for preserving email records cleared the House on Monday by voice vote.

Managed by on the floor by Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., the Electronic Message Preservation Act  (H.R. 1376) was long championed by Rep. Elijah Cummings, Md., ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “This legislation would provide accountability to encourage every president to have the controls in place that are necessary to preserve emails and other electronic records,” he said on the floor.

The bill would not only require tightened procedures for preserving electronic messages, it would also require new systems to make them easily retrievable through search engines.

As many as 46 percent of agencies continue to print and file paper copies of email messages, Cummings noted, citing an October 2017 report from the National Archives and Records Administration.

The Archives has also recommended that agency records offices move toward greater use of electronic storage for “long-term cost savings, information security, and more efficient and effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act,” Cummings noted.

The bill would codify guidance already in place from the National Archives and the Office of Management and Budget. It would require the Archivist to establish new standards for the preservation and management of email records that are presidential records and to certify annually in a report that the White House has parallel records management controls in place.

“The Archivist must report one year after a president leaves office on whether the controls used by that president met the required standards,” Cummings said.

Though a similarly bipartisan bill passed the House in 2014, it has yet to be taken up in the Senate, where it sits with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Cummings has said he is hopeful about its prospects because the bill is noncontroversial.