NARA targets digitization of 500 million pages by 2026 in draft strategic plan

People watch the Independence Day parade outside the National Archives in Washington, DC, on July 4, 2019. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP)

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The National Archives and Records Administration has published the first draft of a new strategic plan that includes an ambitious target for the agency to digitize 500 million pages of government records by 2026.

In its proposed 2022-2026 strategy, the administration said it hopes to process 85% of archival holdings by the end of the period. Additionally, it will work to enhance catalog descriptions that promote equity in discovery and archival access for underrepresented communities.

“In order to achieve success in this goal, NARA must digitize millions of records we hold in analog formats, keep pace with the continuous stream of new records we receive each year, and develop new ways to help citizens find our records through the online National Archives Catalog,” the agency said in its draft strategic plan.

NARA is seeking feedback on the proposed plan, which must be submitted by Aug. 20.

The agency faces a vast challenge in cataloging existing digital and physical records that have yet to be processed. One former senior agency leader speaking to FedScoop described “literally stacks” of wooden palettes containing hard drives that have yet to be processed at the administration.

NARA also intends to deliver 95% of customer requests — including FOIA requests — on time by 2026. It is formulating the new strategy amid sustained criticism over its handling of a recent veterans’ records backlog at its National Personnel Records Center division.

House lawmakers at the end of July wrote to NARA, calling it to apply for funding from the Technology Modernization Fund to help clear unprocessed records that tallied 500,000 in July. This followed a previous letter sent by a bipartisan group of politicians, asking for the Department of Defense to intervene.

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Department of Defense (DOD), FOIA, NARA, National Personnel Records Center
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