Future Digital System similar to NARA's records system only on the surface

On the surface, the Government Printing Office's Future Digital System appears to duplicate what the National Archives and Records Administration is doing under its Electronic Records Archive project.

GPO, which awarded a $29 million contract earlier this month to Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., to build and run the system, hopes that FDSys by the end of fiscal 2007 will receive digital information and provide search and retrieval information to the public.

The goal of NARA's $300 million ERA system, whose initial operating capability it expects to unveil also in 2007, is to ensure that anyone can access the electronic records that NARA preserves, and to make it easier for government organizations to transfer their electronic records to NARA, according to NARA's Web site
Doesn't sound much different.

But Mike Wash, GPO's chief technical officer, said that while the systems have some similarities, FDSys has a different mission than ERA.

'GPO's scope is all published government information with the intent of providing transparency to the public,' he said. 'NARA's scope is the records of the government'and it is much broader, to include e-mail and memos.'

Wash added that the public expects GPO to post documents as quickly as possible. NARA, on the other hand, might not receive records for six months or 20 years.

He said one similarity between GPO and NARA's systems is the use of the Open Archival Information Systems standard. GPO officials are in discussions with NARA and Library of Congress officials to ensure retrieval system interoperability.

'We could send information to NARA and they would not have to do any extra work to put it in their system,' Wash said. 'We all know what information will come in, so it is less of a management problem.'

The Library of Congress has not yet adopted OAIS, but Wash said he is hopeful that officials will strongly consider it.

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