Managing Government Records: The Backbone of Open Government

As part of Sunshine Week, I want to take the opportunity to update you on one of the commitments made by the President as part of our Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.  On November 28, 2011, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum entitled “Managing Government Records” to begin an Executive Branch-wide effort to reform records management policies and practices.  This is the first time since the Truman Administration that this level of White House attention has been focused on the records of our country, and I am taking it very seriously.

As the President writes in the Memorandum, “Improving records management will improve performance and promote openness and accountability by better documenting agency actions and decisions.”  He continues, “When records are well managed, agencies can use them to assess the impact of programs, to reduce redundant efforts, to save money, and to share knowledge within and across their organizations.  In these ways, proper records management is the backbone of open Government.” 

Effective records management goes hand-in-hand with the statutory requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and serves as the foundation for the broader Open Government goals articulated by the President on his first day in office—to make our service to the American people more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

The National Archives is currently working with Federal agencies, public interest groups, professional organizations, vendors, and citizens, as well as our talented staff, to gather information on how to improve Government-wide records management.

If you are interested in participating in this information gathering effort, please join our IdeaScale community or attend our Public Meeting on the Memorandum on Tuesday, 27 March, at 10:00 a.m. at the William G. McGowan Theater in the National Archives building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC.  You can follow this issue at our records management blog, Records Express.

Finally, in late July, the Director of OMB and I will issue a Records Management Directive that will instruct agency heads to take specific steps to reform and improve records management policies and practices within their agency.  This is an historic moment in the history of our Government and we at the National Archives are proud to be playing a role in this effort.

David S. Ferriero is Archivist of the United States   

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