OMB issues guidance on NARA’s transition to electronic record keeping

The end of 2022 looms as the deadline for a paperless future, and the White House is laying out expectations and deadlines.
Pink banners adorn The National Archives Building on the first day of the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the first weekend of Spring on March 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is set to stop accepting paper-based records at the end of 2022, and the White House Office of Management and Budget has a new guidance out to help agencies meet this deadline.

OMB published a memo late last week that lays out expectations and deadlines for agencies as they move toward the paperless future. NARA archives documents from all corners of the government.

“The Federal Government spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of hours annually to create, use, and store Federal records in analog (paper and other non-electronic) formats,” the memo states. “Maintaining large volumes of analog records requires dedicated resources, management attention, and security investments that should be applied to more effectively managing electronic records.”

Instead, OMB is directing agencies to “ensure that all Federal records are created, retained, and managed in electronic formats, with appropriate metadata,” and “develop plans to close agency-operated storage facilities for paper and other, analog records, and transfer those records to Federal Records Centers operated by NARA or commercial storage facilities.”


The OMB guidelines require that all agencies “manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format” by Dec. 31, 2019. By December 31, 2022 this requirement extends to all permanent records as well as temporary records, “to the fullest extent possible.”

“Beginning January 1, 2023, all other legal transfers of permanent records must be in electronic format, to the fullest extent possible, regardless of whether the records were originally created in electronic formats,” the memo states. After that date, agencies will be required to digitize permanent records in analog formats before transfer to NARA.”

Dec. 31, 2022 is also the deadline for agencies to close their agency-operated record centers, and transition all records to federal or commercial centers.

For its part, NARA will update its regulations on standards for electronic record keeping by Sept. 30, 2020.

Meanwhile, a recent audit by NARA’s inspector general found continuing weaknesses in the agency’s ability to manage electronic records. Legacy IT systems, for example, hinder the agency’s capacity to ensure that it is collecting all the records it should be collecting.


“These deficiencies combined represent a material weakness in electronic records management and will continue to have a negative impact unless improvements are made,” the inspector general’s report reads.

The IG made a total of 10 recommendations to improve NARA’s electronic records management practices. NARA agreed with all 10 recommendations, and provided descriptions of the actions it plans to take to address the issues identified.

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