Federal agencies have been directed to take steps to move aggressively to eliminate paper record keeping.  In a joint memo to all federal agencies last week, Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and David Ferriero, head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) orders agencies, to the extent possible, “eliminate paper and use electronic record keeping.”

The direction applies to all agencies “without regard to security classification or any other restriction.”

The move to paperless recordkeeping is part of the administration’s records management reform program that was announced last year.  The government-wide program will improve government performance, promote openness and accountability, and improve business processes, according to OMB.

The joint memo sets two deadlines for action by agencies to achieve electronic recordkeeping for emails and permanent electronic records.  By December 31, 2016, agencies will have to “manage all email records in an electronic format.”  All email records management systems for identification, retrieval, and retention will have to support records management and litigation requirements.  The directive also requires agencies to report annually on their progress toward meeting this goal.

By December 31, 2019, all agency permanent electronic records “will be managed electronically to the fullest extent possible for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA in an electronic format.”  The memo directs agencies to start implementing plans to meet this goal by December 31, 2013.

To demonstrate their commitment to comply with all records management regulations and laws, agencies will designate a Senior Agency Official (SAO) by November 15, 2012.  The SAO will be at the Assistant Secretary level or the equivalent and will work with the Agency Records Officer (who oversees day to day agency recordkeeping) to ensure compliance.

The direction requires agencies to establish records management training and to develop a method for notifying all employees of their records management responsibilities by December 31, 2104.  Also by that date, Agency Records Officers “must hold the NARA certificate of Federal Records Management Training.”  New Agency Records Officers have one year from the date of their appointment to get the certificate.

The memo requires OMB, NARA, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to take action to assist agencies in efforts to achieve the electronic records management goals.  OMB will update OMB Circular A-130, Management of Federal Information Resources, to require agencies to include records management requirements when moving to cloud-based services.

NARA will, by December 31, 2013, revise guidance for transferring permanent electronic guidance and issue new guidance including “methods for managing, disposing, and transferring email.”  NARA is also directed to “work with private industry and other stakeholders to produce economically viable automated records management solutions.”

The Office of Personnel Management will establish a records management occupational series that sets roles, responsibilities, and necessary skill sets for agency records professionals.