Is DOD the archiving savior?

A Defense Department archiving program could be a white knight for government agencies
working to establish an archiving policy for electronic documents.


The Defense Information Systems Agency's Joint Interoperability Test Command Records
Management Application (RMA) test at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., could become the standard for
storing and managing documents governmentwide.


The government's archiving rules for electronic documents were thrown into chaos in
November when U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman threw out the National Archives
and Records Administration's regulations that allowed agencies to print and delete
electronic documents such as e-mail [GCN, Nov. 10, 1997, Page 1].


Friedman ordered agencies to halt the deletion of electronic records after a Ralph
Nader group, Public Citizen of Washington sued NARA over preservation of the records.


The ruling left the agencies without an archiving policy to deal with a swelling bank
of electronic documents. But NARA is holding off on creating a formal policy pending the
outcome of an appeal of Friedman's decision.


Meanwhile, a NARA electronic archiving workgroup is carefully watching DOD's progress.
And there has been progress. The Defense Information Systems Agency this month certified
ForeMost records management software as the first product to meet DOD's electronic records
standards. The software, created by Provenance Systems Inc. of Arlington, Va., meets the
Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications, known as
DOD 5015.2-STD.


And later this month DISA will begin testing Tower Record and Information Management
(TRIM) by Tower Software Corp. of Fairfax, Va. Provenance and Tower are the only vendors
to submit products so far, although six other vendors have expressed interest, said Steve
Matsuura, the DISA senior electronics engineer who is heading up the RMA certification
testing.


"NARA signed an agreement with DOD to look at it formally with the possibility of
endorsing it for the rest of the government," said Ken Thibodeau, NARA's director of
the Center for Electronic Records and a member of the Electronic Records Work Group.


The tests could eventually provide DOD with a selection of commercial products for
managing electronic documents.


"Our purpose here is to test [records management] software to make sure it does
the job," Matsuura said. "But the other purpose is also to help the developers
and the purchaser in getting their products to meet the requirements."


The DOD archiving criteria help other federal agencies with their records management.
The 29-page DOD standard, approved in November, outlines the baseline requirements for
software used by DOD to store, retrieve, transfer and destroy records, including e-mail
documents.


"The DOD regulations are very broad and far-reaching," said John McCarthy,
Provenance's director of sales and marketing.


The DOD standard came out of a three-year examination of Defense records management
system. DOD's Office of Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence then created a
task force that wrote the baseline requirements, said Thibodeau, who headed up the task
force.


The DOD regulations require software to perform a variety of functions:


DISA's records management application testing team said ForeMost meets the mandatory
criteria. Tower's TRIM software will undergo testing this month and also is expected to
meet the requirements.


Both the Provenance and Tower products were developed outside the United
States--Provenance is headquartered in Ottawa, and Tower's headquarters are in Australia.
TRIM, used by several Australian government agencies, manages paper and electronic
records, and ForeMost was designed for electronic documents.


The products and the DOD standard cover most government archiving needs, but they do
not answer all the problems. "I don't know if there will be a miracle solution,"
said Geoff Moore, Tower's president.


The process of determining whether a document is a record is still done manually.
That's simple enough for forms, templates or workflow, McCarthy said, because their status
is predetermined.


The status of e-mail is more difficult to ascertain, however.


Once an e-mail document is considered an official record, it must be tracked just as
official paper documents are.


Another issue is longevity and how the records will be stored for the future.


More information about the records management application certification testing program
can be found on the World Wide Web at http://jitc-emh.army.mil/recmgt/home3.htm.


More information about NARA's Electronic Records Work Group can be found at http://www.nara.gov/records/grs20/.


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