Clinton emails add urgency to records management


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In the aftermath of news that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conducted official business using a private email, federal agencies have been asking more questions about managing their email systems, a top National Archives official said.

“The recent events, including Hillary’s email management, has been a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and education on NARA’s email management,” Lisa Haralampus, director of the Federal Records Management Policy Section at the National Archives and Records Administration, told FedScoop Tuesday.

She added, “We can’t do archives management well if federal agencies don’t do records management well.”

She made the remarks following her keynote speech at the Alfresco 2015 conference Tuesday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

During her talk, Haralampus highlighted a new National Archives report that identifies open source records management tools.

“We know open source is a strategy agencies are considering,” she said. Amid dwindling budgets and growing records issues, “any solutions that have cost-effective approaches, federal agencies should consider.”

Haralampus said records managers are discussing best practices and the next steps for effective records management on the ERM Automation Working Group Wiki. The wiki is hosted on the Office of Management and Budget’s, and users with dot-gov or dot-mil emails can join the group.

She also gave an overview of a National Archives’ 2012 directive that requires agencies to manage permanent and temporary email records electronically by 2016. In the past, the policy of the National Archives had been for agencies to “print and file” their critical emails. With the directive, that changed, Haralampus said.

“We are asking agencies to stop paperizing,” Haralampus said during her keynote.

Parsing what to keep is a constant challenge for agencies, she said. Even as digital storage costs are falling, agencies are seeing increases in the costs associated with making sure data has the right access controls, she said. “We’re seeing more and more that agencies wanting to retain their information for the best time possible – that’s the key,” Haralampus told FedScoop.

It’s a delicate balance, said Flip Anderson, acting associate CIO for information and resource management at the Agriculture Department.

“A lot of agencies are struggling with this: How do we identify the records and not inadvertently delete something that could come back and bite me,” he said.

He said USDA collects hundreds of terabytes of email per year that is typically put into an archive system, which doesn’t interface well with records management systems. “Now, you’ve got a bunch of email where you don’t know if it’s a record or not, sitting in an archive system and you don’t know how we’re going to get it out and get it categorized,” he said.

Anderson said he and Haralampus talked before the conference about best practices for managing email.

“I told her I’m going to keep her on my speed dial,” he said.

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Agencies, data analytics, Departments, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), open data, State Department, Tech