This report was published on July 26, 2013 and recently made publicly accessible by the Federation of American Scientists.
Retaining and Preserving Federal Records in a Digital Environment: Background and Issues for Congress (20 pages; PDF)
Congressional Research Service
Analyst in American National Government
Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
From the Summary
All federal departments and agencies create federal records “in connection with the transaction of public business.” The Federal Records Act, as amended (44 U.S.C. Chapters 21, 29, 31, and 33), requires executive branch departments and agencies to collect, retain, and preserve federal records, which provide the Administration, Congress, and the public with a history of public policy execution and its results.
Increasing use of e-mail, social media, and other electronic media has prompted a proliferation of record creation in the federal government. The variety of electronic platforms used to create federal records, however, may complicate the technologies needed to capture and retain them. It is also unclear whether the devices and applications that agencies currently use to create and retain records will be viable in perpetuity—making access to federal records over time increasingly complicated, costly, and potentially impossible.
In recent years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reported records management deficiencies at federal agencies. NARA, which has government-wide records management responsibilities, found 45% of agencies were at high risk of mismanaging their records. Agencies’ inabilities to comply with federal record keeping laws and responsibilities may make it difficult for NARA to predict future federal
archiving needs because officials may not anticipate the true volume of records, nor will they know the variety of platforms used to create those records.
The executive branch has taken steps to clarify records management responsibilities and attempted to improve record keeping administration. In August 2012, for example, NARA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) jointly released a directive providing agencies with a framework for managing federal records, including both paper and electronic records.
Direct to Full Text Report (20 pages; PDF)