In a recent policy announcement, President Obama publicized a set of goals that have pushed federal agencies onto the starting line a marathon-like initiative. Chiefly, the President stated that all federal agencies will need to go paperless by the end of 2019 with permanent digital records. Representing a reorientation of the federal government’s record creation and management standards regarding electronic records, there is little doubt that this transition will be a long, slow grind. In the wake of this announcement, federal agencies standing on the start line of this broad policy initiative are understandably anxious for the gun to go off.
In his joint initiative with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the President outlined two checkpoints to help pace the agencies in their journey to becoming paperless. First, NARA is requiring that all federal agencies have a plan in place by December 2013 to meet the 2019 deadline. This quick turnaround ensures agency accountability in addition to forcing the agencies to get a head start on meeting their target. The second checkpoint requires an email archiving solution to be in place by the end of 2016. Due to the proliferation of digital communications and the need to keep records of these interactions, requiring the archiving of emails before 2019 will help ease federal agencies into compliance with records law. And although this checkpoint only lists email archiving, it can be safely assumed that social media will also need to be archived due to its public nature and certain states’ laws addressing this issue.
Currently, federal agencies are off and running with this initiative. And when the federal agencies finally cross the finish line and are completely paperless in 2019, there is little doubt that they will be fatigued by such a shift in their agency’s transactions. Transitioning to a fully paperless operation requires a bevy of logistical challenges from creating a plan, enlisting archiving solutions, writing appropriate-use policies, and enforcing these policies. By no means is this a simple task. However, it is doable. It will require the steadfastness of a marathoner, but if the agencies pace themselves according to NARA’s plans, they should arrive at the finish line right at their goal time: December 2019.