NARA decides to wait and see on archiving policy

NARA decides to wait and see on archiving policy

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

The National Archives and Rec-ords Administration has decided to hold off on issuing any further guidance about how agencies should handle the preservation of electronic records, pending the final outcome of a lawsuit challenging NARA's preservation policy.

Agencies have been clamoring for guidance from NARA since a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month overturned a lower-court decision that had declared NARA's General Records Schedule 20 null and void [GCN, Aug. 23, Page 6]. For now, NARA officials are directing agencies to follow the amalgam of unofficial policies that it has provided during the past year.

'The case is not necessarily over,' NARA spokesman Gerald George said.

In the two years since the lower-court ruling, NARA has been working on a records policy that would replace GRS-20. Archivist John Carlin convened an Electronic Records Work Group, which issued a series of recommendations for dealing with electronic records. In March, NARA instructed agencies to submit plans by Feb. 1 for handling electronic records.

Public Citizen, a Washington public interest group, filed the lawsuit, arguing that GRS-20, which gave agencies the OK to delete an electronic version of a record as long as it had been stored in some format, did not adequately preserve electronic records. The lawsuit argued that records need to be stored in the format in which they were created.

Public Citizen officials said they will determine soon what to do next. The options include requesting a review of the decision by the full Court of Appeals or filing an appeal with the Supreme Court.

The appellate ruling will not take effect unless Public Citizen decides not to file a further appeal, George said. 'While the case is still pending, we'll probably wait and see' before offering further comment, he said.

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