Selecting Appropriate Formats for Transfer

We frequently receive questions from agencies about what to do when they have records in formats not listed in our revised Transfer Guidance NARA Bulletin 2014-04. The revised guidance greatly expanded the number of formats acceptable for use when transferring permanent records to the National Archives, but there may still be situations where records are in formats that are not listed. Here are some questions to consider when this situation occurs:  

Is the record scheduled as a permanent record?

The formats detailed in Appendix A of the Transfer Guidance only apply to agency records that have been scheduled as permanent. The Bulletin assumes these permanent records are described by schedule items and will be transferred to NARA when the specified retention period is met. Agencies are not required to manage records scheduled as temporary in accordance with NARA’s revised Transfer Guidance. However, agencies should maintain an up-to-date preservation plan for permanent and long-term temporary records describing  how to maintain them and when to migrate them to new formats so the records remain accessible and usable for as long as they are needed.   

Is the record available in another format?

Occasionally agencies maintain copies of records in multiple formats to meet their needs. Therefore, it is possible a record is available in a preferred or acceptable format in addition to formats that are not acceptable. Assuming the copies are of equal quality and are supported with sufficient metadata, agency records officers are encouraged to identify the copy in an acceptable format as the record or contact NARA’s Electronic Records Accessioning and Processing Staff (RDEP) to determine the best format for the transfer of permanent records.  

Should agencies convert or migrate a permanent record from a non-conforming format to one that conforms with the Transfer Guidance?

NARA recommends agencies exercise caution when considering changing the format of a permanent record. The Transfer Guidance states:

Transformation of an electronic record from one format to another could result in changes to the record content, structure, or metadata. Agencies that maintain records in formats that do not conform to this Bulletin should contact the appropriate NARA office, as listed in Section 11, before migrating, converting, or altering the permanent records to meet the NARA format requirements.  

Potential risks include unintended alteration or loss of a record’s content and metadata including loss of persistent links to external information. Sufficient verification processes are required to guarantee that format migrations do not radically alter and impact a record’s trustworthiness. Agency records officers should contact NARA before proceeding with any format migration or conversion.

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Records Management of Social Media and Electronic Records

We have been receiving questions about the records management responsibilities for content created in social media and through the use of electronic messages. We would like to remind Federal agencies that we have issued guidance on both of these topics:

NARA Bulletin 2014-02 for Guidance on Managing Social Media Records, and
NARA Bulletin 2015-02 for Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages.

Agencies are responsible for complying with these bulletins, and managing social media and electronic messages – including traditional SMS texts, encrypted communications, messaging applications, and direct messages on social media platforms – that are Federal records. Social media content and electronic messages related to the conduct of agency business are presumed to be Federal records.

Agencies must properly manage all Federal records, regardless of medium or format, which includes determining whether an existing disposition authority applies. The disposition authority (or records schedule) governs how long the records must be maintained. If no disposition authority exists, then agencies must develop it and submit it to NARA for review and approval by the Archivist of the United States.

Bulletin 2014-02 informs agencies that content created on social media platforms, including Twitter, is likely to be a Federal record and must be managed appropriately. For records posted on third-party social media platforms, agencies must determine how best to manage the records for the appropriate retention period and capture them where appropriate.  Some social media records may be temporary, with a transitory, short, or long-term retention. However, some dispositions may be permanent, requiring the records to be preserved until their eventual transfer to the National Archives.

Bulletin 2015-02 provides records management guidance for electronic messages. Specifically, this Bulletin applies to text messaging, chat/instant messaging, direct messaging functionality in social media tools or applications, voice messaging, and similar forms of electronic messaging systems. Electronic messages created or received in the course of agency business are Federal records. Like all Federal records, these electronic messages must be scheduled for disposition. Some types of electronic messages, such as email messages, are more likely to contain substantive information and thus are likely to require retention for several years, or even permanently. Electronic messages, including email, created or received in a personal account meeting the definition of a Federal record must be forwarded to an official electronic messaging account within 20 days.

Once records, including tweets and messages, are scheduled, they may not be deleted until the authorized retention period has been met. NARA authorizes Federal agencies to disposition records through approved records schedules, so any alteration, deletion, destruction, or removal of records that occurs without following the applicable records schedule must be promptly reported to NARA.

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RM Reporting Period Open

Yesterday we opened the records management reporting period, covering activities for 2016. The period runs from January 9, 2017, to March 17, 2017. Agencies should have already received additional communications with full details and instructions from our office.

This year, we are asking agencies to report the following:

  1. Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA) and Federal Email Management Reports. The RMSA serves as a method for agencies to evaluate their records management programs. This year we have added a supplement to the RMSA to evaluate email management programs using the Criteria for Managing Email Records in Compliance with the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18). Survey tool information for these two reports was sent out on January 9th to Agency Records Officer or those responsible for responding to the 2016 RMSA. Agencies will have access to an individualized report of their results after completing the survey. We will publish the annual RMSA report later this year. Federal Email Management Reports will be posted to the NARA’s web page, a link to this page will be provided in the future. Questions about either of these reports may be sent to
  1. Senior Agency Official for Records Management (SAORM) Reports. This report measures progress towards the goals or requirements in the Managing Government Records Directive and other related records management initiatives. The template for the 2016 Annual SAORM Reports was distributed this week by email from Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer for the Federal Government to SAORMs with a copy to Agency Records Officers. SAORMs are listed here. If agencies need to designate an SAORM or make changes to this list, they may send a notification to

For more information about NARA’s Records Management Oversight and Reporting visit: here. Follow these links for previous RMSA and SAORM reports.

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Agency Responsibilities for Managing Web Records

We sent the following message to Federal agencies this morning.

MEMORANDUM TO FEDERAL AGENCIES CONTACTS: Agency Responsibilities for Managing Web Records at the End of the Administration

Agencies must identify and manage all Federal records on agency websites in accordance with NARA guidance. We remind all agencies that this includes scheduling and disposition of web content, including data sets.

NARA will neither conduct, nor require, a government-wide harvest (i.e., capture) of Federal agency websites as we last did in 2004. Since then, the Internet landscape and agencies’ use of the Internet has changed dramatically. NARA believes agencies are equipped to properly manage these digital Federal records. To help agencies do this, NARA has issued guidance for the scheduling, managing, and transfer of web records in NARA Guidance on Managing Web Records and Format Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Records.

Managing Federal web records is especially important when agencies make significant changes to their web content, such as when they update pages relating to agency leadership or when their website undergoes a significant re-design. Agencies are required to manage these records, including scheduling and transferring them to NARA if they are appraised by NARA as permanent records. These requirements and responsibilities are discussed in detail in NARA’s web guidance.

We are aware that Federal agency websites are harvested and made available through non-Federal “archiving” organizations. Archiving efforts by these organizations (unless done under contract with an agency for records management purposes) do not relieve an agency of its obligations to manage its records in accordance with the Federal Records Act.

NARA’s records management operations are focused on identifying, appraising, scheduling, and transferring Federal records of permanent value. We believe that working with agencies to identify and schedule web records will result in the preservation of those records that are historically valuable and worthy of permanent retention for future generations of researchers.

In many cases, websites contain databases or datasets.  We remind agencies that such data, or the systems in which they reside, must be scheduled as Federal records. On the other hand, many records presented on agency websites are already scheduled and captured in agency systems that are properly scheduled in accordance with the Federal Records Act. Agencies must be able to identify situations in which this is the case.

If you have questions about NARA’s guidance on web records, please contact your agency’s NARA appraisal archivist.


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Agency Records Management Training Requirements

We are pleased to announce the release of the Agency Records Management Training Requirements Bulletin. The Bulletin specifies how often agency records management training must be administered, who must complete the training, and identifies mandatory content areas. The Bulletin provides promising practices intended to address the learning needs of personnel based on their position-level, role or responsibility. The Bulletin provides both, new and clarifying guidance in response to:

  • The Presidential Memorandum – Managing Government Records  issued in November 2011, which stated agency heads must take specific steps to reform records management policies and practices;
  • The 2012 OMB and NARA jointly issued Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18), which required agencies to develop suitable training to make employees aware of their records management responsibilities; and
  • The revised OMB Circular No. A-130 – Managing Information as a Strategic Resource, released in July 2016, also requiring agencies to provide training and guidance, as appropriate, to all agency personnel regarding their Federal records management responsibilities.

We would like to thank everyone that participated in making this guidance as helpful as possible for your agency programs. A follow-on briefing of this Bulletin will be provided at the Winter BRIDG meetings

If you have any questions about this bulletin, please contact

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Top 5 Reasons Why NA-1005 Forms for Capstone Email Are Rejected for Registration

We have a few tips to assist agencies as they prepare an NA-1005 for approval to use GRS 6.1 and to ensure the process goes quickly and smoothly. The following list contains the top 5 reasons a NA-1005 might be returned for revisions after being submitted for registration.

  1. Not using the most recent form. The NA-1005 form has been updated a few times since its original issuance. To make sure you are using the correct form, look at the bottom right hand corner of the form for the date. The current form is dated 09-16.
  2. Not submitting one form per Record Group. NA-1005 forms should be submitted by Record Group (RG) number – one form per RG. For instance, ‘Agency A’ (RG 601) administers the programs of ‘Agency C’ (RG 604). Despite this interconnected nature, Agency A still needs to submit one form for RG 601 and another form for RG 604.
  3. Providing incomplete information. Make sure that all fields are filled out completely and all checkboxes are checked on the form. The most common omissions are not filling out the cutoff instruction field, or not checking the classified email question.
  4. Missing signatures. Both your agency Records Officer and your Senior Agency Official for Records Management (SAORM) must sign the form. Also, the approval check box must be checked and the date of signature entered. (A reminder – a digital signature on the form will not be accepted by NARA. Name, date and approval check box marked is sufficient.)
  5. Providing a URL to an intranet version of organizational charts. Organization charts are required for the review process. Providing a URL to an intranet version is not sufficient as the appraisal archivist cannot access it.
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Records Management Guidance for the Presidential Transition

As we have passed election day, the Federal Government is now in transition mode. The inauguration of a new President means not only a new administration in the White House, but also new senior staff across the Federal Government.

During this time of change, we will work with Federal agencies to ensure both incoming and outgoing political appointees are trained in their records management responsibilities and are properly preserving their records. Managing records is a daily activity and requires constant training and attention throughout an employee’s Federal service.

To assist agencies with these efforts, we created several products to reflect changes in guidance since the last Presidential transition and new requirements codified in the 2014 amendments to the Federal Records Act:

Further, we delivered briefings on records management responsibilities to the Partnership for Public Service, the Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Management Roundtable, and agency records officers.

Earlier today, we released AC 09.2017: Guidance Relating to President-Elect Transition Team Materials. This memo states PETT materials are not Federal nor Presidential records, but are considered personal materials. However, transition briefing materials created by a Federal agency and agency communications with the PETT are Federal records. If a PETT member becomes an official of a Federal agency and incorporates the materials into agency working files, they become Federal or Presidential records depending on the entity they work for.

Records management takes on an increased importance during transitions. The ability to capture and share knowledge is paramount to ensuring a smooth transfer of power. Federal records protect the rights and interests of the public, hold officials accountable for their actions, and document our nation’s history. Our mission is to protect these records and make them available to the public. Sound records management at such critical times ensures today’s records will be available for future generations.

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Agency Action needed for 2017 Annual Move

The 2017 Annual Move is well underway and for the 165 agencies who have records eligible to move, the deadline to submit transfers is rapidly approaching.  On October 1st, 8,473 transfer requests were loaded into ERA representing 87,142 cubic feet of permanent records eligible for accessioning. Now, we need your action.

All transfer requests must be proposed by agencies for transfer to the National Archives. NARA does not automatically assume legal control of the records. Agencies have until December 1st to complete this activity so the records can be physically moved into archival space.

As of this past Monday, only 1,738 transfer requests have been acted on by agencies.  We still have a ways to go to ensure the timely transfer of these historic records, some of which date back to the early 1900s!  It’s important to take action as these records deserve continued preservation by the archival staff at NARA.

We have several tools available to assist you in this task including an instructional webinar and a review tip-sheet.  The most useful tool in finding and submitting your TR is the ERA User Guide.  For more information please take a look at AC Notice 02.2017 or contact Thank you!

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Social Media Guidance now in DYPS

We are pleased to announce we have added social media account guidance to our web publication, Documenting Your Public Service (DYPS). This guidance builds on NARA Bulletin 2014-02: Guidance on Managing Social Media Records and our Social Media Capture White Paper. It specifically addresses the administration of social media accounts during a time of transition. The guidance states the following:

  • Social media accounts created or used for official agency business must stay under the control of the agency. This could also include accounts that might be personally managed by an individual, but are obviously used for agency business and therefore must be captured and managed. If any employee does use a personal account, the account may become the property of the agency.
  • It is best practice to create unique agency-administered accounts when an employee uses a social media platform on behalf of the agency. This allows for a clear delineation of when an employee is acting in an official or personal capacity.
  • Departing employees should create new social media accounts after leaving an agency. If they wish to continue using a social media platform in their personal capacity, departing employees should send a sign off message from the existing agency account and provide followers with their new account username. In this way, their followers would not roll over to their new account. This process will allow the public to continue following the preferred social media account.

Additionally, agencies should remind employees using social media accounts they must copy or forward Federal records created or received in personal electronic messaging accounts to official agency accounts in accordance with 44 USC 2911 requirements.

If you have any questions please contact us by email at

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