By Linda G. Sharp, ESQ., MBA
A new era is dawning for records management within federal agencies. In November of last year, the Obama Administration announced the “Managing Government Records” Memorandum, which calls for complete digitization of all government records by 2019 and specified records management plans from each federal agency by December 2013. Designed to reduce costs and modernize government infrastructure, the initiative will have a great impact on government operations once complete. However, like many private companies looking to implement a records management strategy, there is a long road ahead. With 2013 just around the corner, federal agencies have some important points to keep in mind.
A united front. All stakeholders need to be involved. Although one senior official is to be in charge of the initiative for each agency, the needs of records, legal, and compliance need to be addressed. Just as with private companies, everyone needs to be at one table.
A transition period. The next few years are going to be a time of transition as agencies implement new information management software and migrate their data. However, that doesn’t mean existing obligations, such as legal holds, can be ignored. As we have seen in plenty of cases through 2012, such at the recent ruling in U.S. ex rel. Baker v. Cmty. Health Sys., Inc., 2012 WL 5387069 (D.N.M. Oct. 3, 2012) , the courts will not accept a change in data management policies as an excuse for spoliation. Preservation holds are intended to be an ongoing process. Agencies, therefore, need to consider what disparate data repositories they possess and ensure all data is secured every step of the way.
Think efficiency. One of the most ubiquitous complaints people hear is that the government is “inefficient” and difficult to navigate. While these complaints are unlikely to disappear as a result of Obama’s memorandum, the records’ initiative does present an opportunity for federal agencies to streamline their processes. By taking steps such as consolidating all data into one repository or reducing the amount of data movement required for eDiscovery, officials will not only cut costs but also improve the overall operations of their agencies. With this objective in mind, agencies will not only fulfill their obligations but make Obama’s records initiative a success.