June 26, 2014 – The Society of American Archivists notes with deep concern the recent Congressional investigations regarding the loss of emails by the Internal Revenue Service. SAA notes, in particular, the testimony before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee on June 24 by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, in which he stated that the IRS "did not follow the law" when it failed to promptly report the loss of emails.
Even more troubling is Ferriero’s response to a question posed by Representative Michelle Lujan, that the problem is not exclusive to the IRS. Ferriero’s testimony strongly suggests that throughout the federal government, agencies are failing in their responsibility to properly maintain and control government records as required by law.
SAA believes that the accountability of the United States government to its citizens depends on the maintenance of accurate and complete records. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for records management leadership in the federal government. NARA’s ability to perform this fundamental governmental function has been hampered, however, by a pattern of repeated, consistent, and ultimately shortsighted underfunding as well as the lack of necessary regulatory authority to effectively enforce the law.
To address the crisis in government recordkeeping highlighted by the recent loss of records at the IRS, SAA calls on the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to increase funding for NARA immediately and to continue to strengthen NARA’s regulatory authority by concentrating on implementation of the Managing Government Records Directive issued by the Executive Office of the President in August 2012 (http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/prmd.html). With increased efforts to reform records management as outlined in the Presidential Directive, NARA can fully perform its critical mission of overseeing federal records policies, as assigned by law and executive order, and loss of records can be prevented.