the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

We Can't Wait: President Signs Memorandum to Modernize Management of Government Records

Today, President Obama took the most significant steps since the Truman Administration to improve the management of federal records. Today's Presidential Memorandum directs agencies to move into a digital-based records keeping system, a move that will save taxpayer dollars, promote accountability, and increase government transparency. Today’s action delivers on a commitment the President made in September 2011 when the White House put forward the Open Government Partnership: National Action Plan for the United States.

“The current federal records management system is based on an outdated approach involving paper and filing cabinets. Today’s action will move the process into the digital age so the American public can have access to clear and accurate information about the decisions and actions of the Federal Government,” said President Obama.

Over the last 10 years, the National Archives and Records Administration has taken in an average of 475 million pages of records per year.  Recently there has been significant growth in the volume of electronic records being accessioned, and total archival electronic holdings currently total 142 terabytes. According to a recent report by the National Archivist and Records Administration, agencies have done a poor job of managing the increased volume and diversity of information that come with advances in information technology.  Many are unlikely to fully comply with legal requirements under the Federal Records Act.  The Records Management Presidential Memorandum responds to this underlying problem.

Today’s Presidential Memorandum initiates a comprehensive assessment of agency systems for collecting, maintaining, and preserving the records that document the operation of our democracy.  Specifically, it calls for reports within the next 120 days, by each agency head, describing current plans for improving records management programs; outlining current obstacles to sound, cost-effective records management policies; and cataloguing potential reforms and improvements. The agency reports will inform, and be followed, by a Records Management Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB and the National Archivist of the United States that will identify specific steps agencies must take to reform records management policies and practices.

The Management Directive will focus on making records management more cost-effective and accessible to the public and on transitioning from paper-based records to electronic records where appropriate. In a key provision, the President has required the Director of OMB and the National Archivist to consult with those inside and outside the government – including public stakeholders interested in improving records management and open government.