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house Bill H.R. 1582

Should Records of Electronic Messages Sent by Federal Officials be Digitally Preserved and Searchable?

Argument in favor

All electronic messages sent by federal officials should be preserved digitally, and related regulations should be updated to account for changing technology.

Argument opposed

While open records are important for accountability purposes, preserving all electronic messages sent by federal officials will prove too costly.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedMarch 7th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1582?

This bill  ― the Electronic Message Preservation Act― would require the Archivist of the United States to create regulations governing federal agency preservation of electronic messages that are federal records and to periodically review and amend those rules, as necessary. It’d direct the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to issue regulations governing the preservation of email and other electronic records in an electronically searchable format. NARA would have 120 days to promulgate regulations and agencies would have two years to comply. The bill also would amend the Presidential Records Act to authorize NARA to manage the President’s electronic records.

Impact

Whistleblowers; the federal government National Archives and Records Administration.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1582

The CBO estimates that enacting this bill wouldn’t increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress (and 2013, 2015 and 2017 before that). Last Congress, this bill came at a time of controversy in which White House staffers in the Trump administration were said to be using an app that deleted messages immediately after being read. In floor remarks when the full House considered — and passed — this bill last Congress, Rep. Cummings said: 

"This bill would help ensure that email records from federal agencies and the White House are preserved. According to an October 2017 report from the National Archives and Records Administration, approximately 46% of agencies continue to print and file paper copies of email messages. These records are more likely to get lost and are harder for agencies to retrieve during records searches under the Freedom of Information Act. This bill would put into statute what agencies are already required to do under a directive issued by the Archivist and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In 2016, the National Archives issued a document for agency records officers titled, 'Why Agencies Need to Move Towards Electronic Recordkeeping.' The document identified a number of reasons, including long term cost savings, information security, and more efficient and effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act... This legislation would provide accountability to encourage every president to have the controls in place that are necessary to preserve emails and other electronic records."

There are no cosponsors of this bill in the 116th Congress. This legislation passed the House in the 115th Congress, but didn't receive a Senate vote.


Of NoteUnder the Federal Records Act, each agency is required to make and preserve records of its activities and to have appropriate systems to manage and preserve those records. That act also requires NARA to oversee and issue guidance on managing federal records, including email messages. In 2012, the Office of Management and Budget issued Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18), which required federal agencies to manage all email records in an electronic format by 2016. Although current NARA regulations require that government email messages be stored electronically, NARA allows agencies to print and file paper copies instead.


Media:

Summary by Countable Team

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Aurielaki)

AKA

Electronic Message Preservation Act

Official Title

To amend title 44, United States Code, to require preservation of certain electronic records by Federal agencies, to require a certification and reports relating to Presidential records, and for other purposes.