Are U.S. Government Agencies Ready to Meet NARA's 2019 deadline?The number of electronic records in government has skyrocketed in just a few decades. Former President Clinton’s White House generated 32 million emails; former President Obama’s generated over 300 million.

That exponential increase is why the Obama administration, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) mandated that federal agencies transition to managing all permanent records in electronic format, starting with all email records by 2016, and all permanent records by the end of 2019. Per the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) itself:“By December 31, 2019, all permanent electronic records in Federal agencies will be managed electronically to the fullest extent possible for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA in an electronic format.”

As we enter the final countdown to this deadline, where do today’s federal agencies stand?

98% of agencies are confident about meeting the deadline, but there’s more to this number than meets the eye.

According to a report from NARA, 98% of agencies said they were confident in their ability to manage all permanent electronic records by Dec. 31, 2019. That’s good news!

However, we should manage our expectations: NARA predicted 92% compliance with the 2016 deadline for managing all email records electronically, but only 81% of agencies actually met the deadline. Four-fifths is a strong showing, but it also means a significant minority of agencies missed the deadline. Further, 46% of agencies were still using “printing and filing” as a method of email capture in some capacity, even by the target date. That’s down from the 75% of agencies that did so in 2013, but the figure still means that nearly half of federal agencies were continuing to use an outdated mode of email record management in the year they were required to use electronic record-keeping for all email records.

Further, other indicators should give us pause. Consider: NARA’s Federal Agency Records Management 2017 Annual Report posed the question, “When was your agency’s directive(s) last reviewed and/or revised to ensure it includes all new records management policy issuances and guidance?” Seventeen agencies said it has been since 2012. The report also indicates that seventy-eight agencies lack approved records schedules that incorporate other forms of electronic communications – a key element of meeting the 2019 mandate – like text/SMS messages, chat transcripts, instant messages, voicemails, and applicable social media records.

So, don’t get over-confident; take your 2019 plans seriously.

The optimism demonstrated by the 98% of agencies confident in meeting this year’s deadline does not mean stakeholders should relax their efforts. Many agencies still have a long and potentially challenging journey ahead of them if they are to meet their record-keeping mandate this year. That said, with a solid plan and expert help, meeting the 2019 requirements is entirely within reach.

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