The Commerce Department is housed in DC's Herbert C. Hoover Building.

The Commerce Department is housed in DC's Herbert C. Hoover Building. Flickr user ncindc

Commerce, Prisons Bureau at High Risk for Losing Email

The National Archives scores agencies on compliance with records preservation laws.

The National Archives and Records Administration since 2013 has been directing, surveying and training agency employees in the use of its records management program called Capstone. An Archives spokeswoman told Government Executive, “The preservation of all federal records by agencies is an ongoing priority for the National Archives. Electronic Records are a growing portion of these records.”

Archives uses a questionnaire to determine whether federal agencies are compliant with the law and then reports the results to the Office of Management and Budget.

But that survey stresses processes, training and performance goals -- it does not specifically ask about notifications of computer crashes. And it does not produce 100 percent compliance. For the fiscal 2012 survey, the latest, 281 agencies received the self-assessment, but only 241 responded. Among the nonrespondents in 2012 were the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, and the Defense Department’s U.S Army Corp of Engineers.

The portion of agencies that report having policies and procedures for email records with a retention period longer than 180 days remains unchanged at 68 percent, the report said.

The Archives’ summary of the self-assessment ranks the agencies’ compliance on a 100-point scale, with low risk being 90-100, moderate risk 60-89, and high risk from 0-59. Among those at lowest risk of losing records, scoring 100 points, are the Pentagon’s Missile Defense agency, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Agriculture Department’s Farm Credit Administration, and the  U.S. Secret Service. Interestingly, the Internal Revenue Service scores 99 points, putting it at low risk for losing email, a ranking at odds with the current scandal.

Among those at highest risk are Commerce's department-level operations (47), Army Forces Command (15), the Justice Department’s Federal Bureau of Prisons (9), the Government Printing Office (6) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (6).  

While the data shows some signs of improvement over previous years, many agencies still do not transfer eligible permanent records to NARA according to their approved records schedules,” the survey analysts found. “Two-thirds of respondent agencies report that they transfer eligible permanent non-electronic records to the National Archives, but fewer than half -- 41 percent -- report that they transfer eligible permanent electronic records.”

Overall, “NARA is pleased with the progress federal agencies have made in managing their records,” the NARA report said. “However, there continues to be room for improvement.”