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Bush’s exit to put new e-records system to the test

Following up on the report about NARA’s Executive Office of the President (EOP) Electronic Records Archives (ERA) (http://freegovinfo.info/node/2178), here is a story that goes in to more detail, much of it quite scary.

Deb Logan, an analyst at Gartner Inc., says in the article that the onerous task will be sorting through the unclassified and unprocessed data that the Bush administration will leave behind. “It would be one thing if the stuff had to be moved seamlessly to a records repository, but it’s just eight years of stuff,” she says. “It will be nearly impossible to get it under control without a massive expenditure of human resources because the technology is not there.”

This is scary when one considers that it took NARA over a year to process the 2 Terabytes of data from the Clinton administration and NARA expects 140 Terabytes of data from the Bush administration. Even given that NARA now has a system in place that did not exist for processing the Clinton data, there is a big difference between the dealing with the technology issues and the information management issues:

Logan says part of the blame lies with federal agencies themselves, pointing to a GAO survey that concluded federal agencies have failed across the board to fulfill their records management obligations, “not out of malice or neglect but out of the nature of the volume of electronic communications and the time frame in which they have to do it,” she says. “Anyone who’s putting an optimistic face on the job is not being realistic.”

Optimism may be relevant from a technology point of view, Thibodeau acknowledges, but not from an information management point of view. “From my side of NARA, I don’t deal with what’s in the records, just whether we can get them into the system,” he notes. “We allow the library staff to deal with the content.”

…Logan says the problem of managing electronic records won’t be resolved until the government agencies themselves do a better job of electronic records management, including classifying, de-duplicating and purging data through the use of systems such as archiving, records and policy management, content monitoring/filtering, and content analytics tools.

A GAO report says, “NARA believes that if it cannot ingest the Bush records in a way that supports search and retrieval immediately after the transition, it may not be able to effectively respond to requests from the Congress, the new administration, and the courts for these records—a critical agency mission.” (The National Archives and Records Administration’s Fiscal Year 2008 Expenditure Plan, September 2008, GAO-08-1105.)

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