Federal Open Records Act

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    How it Works

    • To ensure that federal agencies are maintaining records according to the act, the NARA conducts appraisals of the records. Each record is classified into a category based on the information the records contain, such as temporary or permanent records. Based on the file classification, the NARA uses its appraisal reviews to make sure that the records are maintained for the correct number of years, and that files are properly destroyed when maturation dates have been reached.


    • The Federal Records Act dictates the schedule and manner by which records are to be destroyed. NARA creates the schedule, which is called a General Records Schedule or GRS, for destroying temporary records. The schedule must be approved by the archivist of the United States before NARA distributes the schedule to the federal agencies.


    • The General Records Schedule also includes detailed instructions on how to manage records, which records no longer need to be maintained, how long records need to be kept onsite before being transferred to a Federal Records Center, when records should be destroyed, or when records need to be transferred to NARA, which preserves the records indefinitely.


    • The federal agency or department that manages records is required to have in place its own Records Management Program, which is responsible for recording information about the records in its possession. Information pertains to legal, financial, evidentiary and historical transactions. The NARA then works with these individual agencies and departments to make sure that the information being handled is recorded accurately and completely to make sure it is in accordance with the Federal Records Act.


    • In a world that is transforming from paper-based record keeping to electronic records management, the federal agency or department that is managing records is also responsible for capturing and protecting electronic forms of documentation. Electronic documents are also required to be maintained in accordance with the Federal Records Act, which includes safeguarding the information, protecting the forms from unlawful removal or loss. Electronic documentation is included under the GRS and the transference of records to NARA, and of permanent records to the National Archives to be archived indefinitely.

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