NARA backs DOD electronic records storage policy

The National Archives and Records Administration in November endorsed the Defense
Department’s standard for electronic records management as a helpful aid for agencies

Although widely anticipated—a NARA official helped write the DOD
regulation—the standard is a tool agencies can use now while they await a final
policy from NARA. The agency has been working on a policy on archiving electronic records
since November 1997, when U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled NARA’s
existing policy null and void.

“This is a very important and very positive action on the part of NARA,” said
Rick Barry of Barry Associates, an Alexandria, Va., records management consulting firm.

NARA deputy archivist Lewis Bellardo said the move “provides a starting point for
agencies that want to begin implementing electronic record-keeping now.”

The NARA endorsement does not mandate that agencies use DOD’s Design Criteria
Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications, known as DOD-Std 5015.2.
Instead it is NARA’s declaration that 5015.2 conforms to the requirements of the
Federal Records Act and establishes baseline requirements for managing electronic records.

“While the DOD standard is an appropriate basis for records management, there may
be other, equally valid ways to address this challenge,” Bellardo said, and NARA is
exploring those alternatives.

The Australian Records Management Standard, AS 4390, is currently before the
International Organization on Standards for short-track approval, and experts suggested
NARA might endorse it, too.

“Unlike most standards, DOD provided not only the standard but the certification
methodology and authority to go along with it,” Barry said. “A standard without
a credible means of certification is a standard without teeth.”

The Defense Information Systems Agency’s Joint Interoperability Test Command at
Fort Huachuca, Ariz., certifies product compliance.

Several products comply with the DOD standard, including ForeMost records management
software from Provenance Systems Inc. of Arlington, Va., and Tower Record and Information
Management from Tower Software Corp. of Fairfax, Va.

NARA, however, noted that the agency’s endorsement is not an endorsement of the
products that have cleared DISA’s certification hurdles.

The DOD standard requires that records management software perform several functions:

Bellardo said the DOD standard does not solve all electronic records problems.

“Each agency must address these questions within the context of their own computer
and policy environments, such as DOD itself is planning to do by developing a manual of
detailed procedures to accompany implementation of any records management software,”
he said.

NARA and DOD are continuing to work together on records management issues, he said.

More information about the DISA certification program can be found at


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