Federal IT Workers Struggle to Meet Digital Record Deadline

The study asked federal records management officials  to assess their agency’s likelihood of meeting the presidential directive for digital records.

With just days to go before a key deadline to digitize and streamline their records management practices, almost half (46 percent) of federal agency records and information management professionals do not believe, or are unsure if, the requirements are realistic and obtainable, according to a survey by data backup specialist Iron Mountain and MeriTalk.

The presidential directive requires agencies to identify all permanent records in existence for more than 30 years, as well as report on progress toward managing those records in electronic format.

Survey respondents believe that successful compliance with the directive will deliver additional benefits, including improving accessibility in records search (50 percent) and increasing the overall efficiency of agency operations (45 percent).

Other major benefits cited by respondents were making search, eDiscovery and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response practices easier (38 percent), increasing government transparency (33 percent) and decreasing the cost of records and information management (33 percent).

However, while 55 percent of the survey respondents believe the directive will improve compliance with federal records management statutes and regulations, this optimism is tempered by agency skepticism that they will be able to comply with the approaching Dec. 31 deadline.

"The presidential directive–in combination with sequestration, the ‘freeze-the-footprint’ mandate, FOIA, open government and other information-centric actions like the Open Data Policy–have federal agencies at an information management tipping point," Megan Kriebel, general manager of government services with Iron Mountain, said in a statement.

The study, based on an online survey of 100 federal government records and information management professionals in October, asked respondents to assess their agency’s likelihood of meeting the presidential directive.

Seventy percent of respondents say they have very little progress to report in regards to electronically managing permanent records and email, while just 18 percent say they have made significant progress and currently are ready to report.

"Agencies are trying to balance ever-expanding record volumes with flat or shrinking budgets, all while racing to meet mandates that require a fundamental shift in how they store, access and manage records and information," Kriebel said. "Agencies can more easily meet the directive deadlines and find cost savings by carefully reviewing records management practices, engaging agency leaders and working with industry partners."

Federal records and information management professionals indicated that better-trained records-management personnel (53 percent) and dedicated funding (51 percent) would most help them to meet the presidential directive deadlines.