[Federal Register Volume 60, Number 166 (Monday, August 28, 1995)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 44634-44642]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 95-21125]

[[Page 44633]]


Part III

National Archives and Records Administration


36 CFR Part 1220 et al.

Electronic Mail Systems; General Records Schedule 20; Disposition of 
Electronic Records; Final Rule and Notice

Federal Register / Vol. 60, No. 166 / Monday, August 28, 1995 / Rules 
and Regulations 

[[Page 44634]]


36 CFR Parts 1220, 1222, 1228, and 1234

RIN 3095-AA58

Electronic Mail Systems

AGENCY: National Archives and Records Administration.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is 
issuing standards for management of Federal records created or received 
on electronic mail (e-mail) systems in these amendments to 36 CFR 
Chapter XII. The standards will affect all Federal agencies.
    On March 24, 1994, NARA published a notice of proposed rulemaking 
on standards for the management of e-mail records. In response to this 
notice NARA received 92 comments (comprising approximately 1500 pages) 
covering a wide range of issues from Federal agencies, private 
organizations, and interested individuals. NARA has revised its 
proposal to reflect many of the comments received and to clarify and 
focus the standards. The standards now being issued are framed in 
regulatory language, rather than as an appendix to 36 CFR Part 1234 as 
formerly proposed. The final rule places e-mail into its proper context 
in the appropriate parts of 36 CFR Chapter XII, including specifically 
creation and maintenance of records, regardless of media.

EFFECTIVE DATE: September 27, 1995.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James J. Hastings, Director, Records 
Appraisal and Disposition Division, National Archives at College Park 
(NIR), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, or by telephone 
on 301-713-7110 ext. 274.
    A complete set of the responses to the notice of proposed 
rulemaking that was published on March 24, 1994, is available for 
public inspection at the address listed above.



    Because nearly all Federal agencies now use e-mail to transact 
Government business, there is the need for Government-wide standards on 
managing e-mail records. NARA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 
on standards for managing e-mail records on March 24, 1994 (hereafter 
referred to as the March standards). There was significant response to 
this proposal, particularly on the part of those who will be affected 
more immediately by the rule--the Federal Government agencies. Ninety-
two responses were received, of which 76 were from Federal agencies, 13 
from other organizations, and three from the general public. The vast 
majority of comments from Federal agencies were critical of the March 
standards; most of the comments from other organizations were 
    In addition to the specific responses listed below, NARA has made 
two overall revisions that will clarify the coverage of the regulations 
and provide further guidance. The first of these changes is the 
framework of the standards. The March standards were written as an 
appendix to 36 CFR Part 1234. As an appendix to the regulations, the 
standards were not clearly understood because many of the provisions 
were duplicative of other sections of 36 CFR Subchapter B or were out 
of context. Accordingly, NARA now has revised various sections of 36 
CFR Subchapter B to incorporate the records management standards for e-
mail. Incorporating the provisions concerning e-mail in the appropriate 
sections will clarify coverage and accomplish the critical goal of 
placing e-mail in context with the creation, maintenance, and 
disposition of records in all media.
    The second overall change NARA has made is to better focus the 
final regulations by eliminating references that were in the March 
standards to future e-mail systems, advantages of electronic 
recordkeeping, and other non-regulatory matters. These important 
considerations are more appropriately addressed by NARA, in 
consultation with other agencies and organizations, in separate 
guidance rather than in regulations. NARA will issue bulletins and 
publications concerning the application of the Federal Records Act to 
the modern office environment. These issuances will address electronic 
recordkeeping requirements and other matters relating to the effect of 
office automation on records management. NARA will continue to issue 
guidance, working with agencies and representatives of the computer 
industry, to assist agencies to adapt their recordkeeping requirements 
to the rapid developments in information technology.
    The revised framework and the improved focus of the standards will 
clarify their purpose--to define requirements for proper identification 
and preservation of Federal records created or received on e-mail 
    The regulations and guidance will allow agency officials to make 
decisions about the most appropriate and effective use of e-mail, and, 
therefore, to make maximum use of its potential.

Comments and Response

    The following are summaries of and responses to the major comments 
that were received. They are listed in descending order according to 
the percentage of respondents who addressed each issue.

1. Comment: The March Standards Would Be Too Expensive and Burdensome

    Seventy percent of the agencies and 60% of all respondents 
commented that implementation of the requirements in the March 
standards would be too expensive and burdensome. Many of the agencies 
interpreted the regulations as requiring electronic maintenance of e-
mail records. Most agencies, because their current e-mail systems were 
not designed to manage records, must maintain their e-mail records on 
paper and file them with other records. Few agencies currently have the 
technical capability or recordkeeping need to maintain e-mail records 
electronically for their full retention period. Most of the agencies 
that responded stated clearly that their systems do not have the 
capacity to maintain their e-mail electronically and that it would 
require unreasonable time and expense to modify or replace their 
systems. The burden would be particularly great because current off-
the-shelf software products do not provide full records management 
functionality. Many agencies indicated that they are considering the 
benefits of electronic recordkeeping and plan to adopt it in the 
future, particularly when off-the-shelf software products are 
available. They objected strongly, however, to a regulatory requirement 
to do so.
    Response: While the proposed standards encouraged agencies to 
consider the benefits of electronic recordkeeping, neither the 
standards nor the Federal Records Act require electronic recordkeeping. 
NARA recognizes that agency e-mail systems have different 
characteristics and that agencies have varying recordkeeping 
requirements and procedures. Accordingly, the final standards have been 
revised to clarify that they apply to e-mail messages that meet the 
definition of record in the Federal Records Act, regardless of the 
media on which they are preserved, and to provide realistic 
requirements that agencies can meet immediately. As indicated above, 
guidance that is to be issued by NARA will address how agencies can use 

[[Page 44635]]
recordkeeping to meet their recordkeeping requirements and will 
describe the advantages of automated records management.
    Other areas that agencies considered too costly and burdensome 
concerned training and monitoring the proper management of e-mail 
records. For a summary and response to these comments, see #11, below.
    Many agencies observed that implementing the proposed standards 
would be so burdensome that it would violate the spirit and intent of 
the President's National Performance Review initiative to streamline 
Government and reduce regulations. E-mail affords the opportunity for 
very efficient communications within agencies, with other 
organizations, and with the citizenry as a whole. The burden of 
implementing the standards as proposed would make e-mail more 
cumbersome and would place obstacles in the way of a streamlined 
    NARA recognizes that e-mail has a major role in the efficiency of 
communications; widespread and easy use of e-mail has made it an 
important tool for the conduct of Government business. Accordingly, 
agencies should ensure that e-mail messages that document their 
policies, programs, and functions are appropriately preserved. 
Therefore, agencies must put into place policies and procedures that 
ensure that e-mail records are identified and preserved. The final 
standards now being issued afford discretion as to how agencies will 
fulfill this responsibility but do not allow agencies the discretion as 
to whether they will accomplish it. If agencies are creating or 
receiving e-mail messages that meet the definition of records in the 
Federal Records Act, and most agencies that commented agreed that they 
are, then they must have a program in place that preserves these 
records for the appropriate period of time.
2. Comment: Clarification Needed Between Record and Nonrecord E-mail

    Nearly 45% of the Federal agencies and more than 40% of the non-
Federal respondents expressed concerns about making the distinction 
between record and nonrecord e-mail. Most indicated that under the 
March standards too many e-mail messages would be determined to be 
records, thus clogging the system with unimportant messages. Of 
particular concern was the paragraph that stated that all copies of e-
mail messages must be evaluated as to whether they are records or not. 
Respondents believe that this would lead to needless retention of many 
duplicates of messages. Agencies requested NARA to clarify what 
constitutes the record copy. Furthermore, the language and examples 
that were used in the proposed standards would result in all but the 
most ephemeral messages being considered records. Many of the agencies 
also expressed concern about the treatment of drafts in the proposed 
standards. They commented that the March standards exaggerated the 
importance of drafts.
    Response: NARA believes the final standards now being issued will 
put e-mail into its proper context and provide for preservation of only 
those messages that are required for agencies to fulfill their 
obligation under the law for adequate and proper documentation of 
agency organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and 
essential transactions. Agencies have long been required to have in 
place recordkeeping requirements that specify what records are to be 
created and how they are to be preserved. By placing the e-mail 
provisions in context with the overall requirements agencies already 
have for appropriate creation, maintenance, and disposition of Federal 
records, NARA has stressed the importance of recordkeeping requirements 
regardless of media and, at the same time, reinforced the need to 
consider e-mail as an important tool for records creation and receipt. 
E-mail records are no more and no less important than other records. 
Agency personnel must apply the same decision-making process to e-mail 
that they apply to other documentary materials regardless of the media 
used to create them. Proper implementation of these regulations will 
result in thorough documentation of agency activities.
    The provision in the March standards concerning multiple copies of 
messages potentially being records was simply a restatement of long-
established NARA policy. The policy is that multiple copies of the same 
document may meet the definition of records if each of them is used to 
transact agency business. Copies that have such record status are 
usually filed in different recordkeeping systems and are used for 
different purposes. Not all copies, therefore, would necessarily be 
considered records. This provision was included in the March standards 
to ensure that agencies understood that it applied to e-mail just as it 
has applied for many years to records in other formats. The final 
regulations continue to have a provision concerning multiple copies. It 
is now placed in 36 CFR 1222.34, Identifying Federal Records, so it 
will be in context with other categories of materials that must be 
evaluated to determine their record status.
    The purpose of including the provisions on drafts in the March 
standards was to highlight the point that e-mail systems are often used 
to circulate draft documents and, as specified in 36 CFR 1222.34, 
drafts may meet the definition of Federal record. The preservation of 
drafts, including those circulated on e-mail systems, could be 
necessary for an agency to meet its recordkeeping requirements. Draft 
documents or working papers that propose or evaluate high-level 
policies or decisions and provide unique information that contributes 
to the understanding of major decisions of the agency should be 
preserved as Federal records. Agencies should apply the same criteria 
specified in 36 CFR 1222.34 to drafts that are circulated on e-mail 
systems as they apply to drafts circulated by other means. The final 
regulations now being issued continue to stress that drafts and other 
working papers that are circulated on e-mail systems may be records. 
The provision for this has been placed in 36 CFR 1234.24, in the 
context of an agency's overall responsibility for managing electronic 
mail records.

3. Comment: Further NARA Guidance is Needed

    Almost one half of the Federal agencies indicated in their comments 
that more overall guidance is needed from NARA before they could meet 
the broader requirements they believed the March standards implied. In 
addition, many agencies requested that NARA work with agencies and 
vendors to help develop off-the-shelf software that will accomplish the 
goals of electronic recordkeeping, encryption and authentication 
functions, and other specific features that will be required when 
agencies convert from paper to electronic recordkeeping.
    Response: As indicated previously, NARA agrees that there is a need 
for work in these areas and it has a major responsibility in the 
development of this guidance. The regulations, however, must be limited 
to basic requirements; other issuances will provide guidance that 
explains the requirements and will offer suggestions for compliance. 
Future guidance from NARA, including a revision of the ``Managing 
Electronic Records'' handbook, will address electronic recordkeeping 
requirements in the office automation environment, and provide guidance 
for the identification of e-mail records and other information that 
will prove useful to agencies as they progress to more sophisticated 

[[Page 44636]]

    One specific area of confusion has been addressed in these 
regulations. Agencies expressed concern about the difference between 
electronic records systems and electronic recordkeeping systems. To 
clarify the distinction, the term ``electronic records system'' has 
been changed to ``electronic information system'' in 36 CFR 1234.2. The 
term ``electronic information system'' is more inclusive than 
``electronic recordkeeping system'' and would include any automated 
system that contains and provides access to data whether or not it 
provides records management functions; the term ``electronic 
recordkeeping system'' is limited to those electronic information 
systems that are designed to organize, categorize, and otherwise 
control the creation, maintenance, and disposition of records. The 
definitions of electronic recordkeeping system and electronic 
information system have been added to the regulations to clarify this 
distinction (See 36 CFR 1234.2). Most e-mail systems currently in use 
are not designed for the preservation, use, and appropriate disposition 
of records so they are electronic information systems, not electronic 
recordkeeping systems. See 36 CFR 1234.24 (b)(2) for instructions to 
agencies for preserving e-mail records in recordkeeping systems.

4. Comment: The March Standards Would Have a Chilling Effect on the Use 
of E-mail

    Approximately 40% of the Federal agency respondents expressed 
concerns that implementing NARA's proposed standards would bring about 
a chilling effect that would limit the use and usefulness of e-mail 
systems. Some felt that monitoring individual mailboxes would be 
unnecessarily invasive and far beyond what is done with paper or 
records in other media. Others indicated that the informal nature of e-
mail messages is the main attraction of the system and NARA's proposed 
standards would inappropriately formalize the communications and, in 
this way, inhibit use. Still others commented that the obligation 
placed on users to consider the record status of every message and to 
take appropriate actions to preserve those that have been determined to 
be records would place unreasonable burdens on staff, would reduce 
productivity, and would destroy rapid communication, the most important 
feature of e-mail.
    Response: The majority of the agencies in their comments agreed 
that Federal records are being created on their e-mail systems. Because 
of this, a number of agencies already have in place records management 
requirements pertaining to e-mail. These requirements provide simple 
instructions for staff to follow about what materials may be created on 
e-mail systems and the categories that may constitute Federal records. 
There is no indication that these instructions have had a chilling 
effect on the use of e-mail. Agencies that lack guidance, however, may 
not be creating and preserving adequate records and may not be taking 
advantage of the full benefits of e-mail. Clear guidance will allow 
agency staff to make decisions about the most appropriate and effective 
use of e-mail, and, therefore, make maximum use of its potential.
    The final standards now being issued put the obligation to identify 
e-mail records in the context of 36 CFR Part 1222 Creation and 
Maintenance of Federal Records, which provides instructions on creation 
and maintenance of records in all media. This context should reassure 
those agencies who feared that the standards would inhibit use because 
the requirements are the same for records in all media. If e-mail is 
used for records creation or receipt, 36 CFR Part 1222 applies.

5. Comment: The Proposed Standards Overly Emphasized the Importance of 

    More than 30% of the Federal agencies said that the March standards 
overly emphasized e-mail because of the extraordinarily detailed and 
stringent requirements for managing e-mail compared to other records. 
Agencies expressed the concern that such lengthy standards for e-mail 
inflated the value of e-mail. They stressed that e-mail is a delivery 
system only and the value comes from the content of the message and not 
the mechanism used to send it. Many of the agencies pointed out that 
regulations for paper records do not reach the same level of detail, 
which they consider unnecessary. The level of control that would be 
required for e-mail would impose costly and burdensome measures 
regardless of the relative importance of the messages.
    A major subset of the comments in the category of misplaced 
emphasis advocated that NARA place e-mail in context with other 
electronic records rather than singling e-mail out for special 
treatment. These agencies stressed the importance of managing all 
categories of electronic records and suggested that the strong emphasis 
on e-mail in the proposed standards diverted attention from the overall 
goal of agencies to properly manage records in all media.
    Some agencies and professional organizations expressed the concern 
that the emphasis on e-mail was misplaced because it focused on only 
one type of record and not on the larger issue of whether agency 
policies, functions, transactions, and decisions are being properly 
documented, as required by law and regulation. They suggested that NARA 
attend to its responsibility to direct agencies on creation and 
maintenance of records documenting their activities and give agencies 
the discretion on how to accomplish that goal.
    Response: NARA understands that the lengthy standards proposed in 
March could lead to the conclusion that e-mail is more important than 
other records. As indicated above, the final standards now being issued 
will put e-mail in the proper context with all other records and, 
therefore, respond to the concerns of those who objected to an over-
emphasis on e-mail. NARA also agrees that more emphasis should be 
placed on recordkeeping requirements to ensure that proper records are 
created and maintained. If agencies fail to create and maintain on 
another format full documentation of their policies and activities 
under clear and specific recordkeeping requirements, e-mail could 
assume an inflated importance. Agencies have the opportunity and 
responsibility to put e-mail in its proper context by issuing, where 
they are lacking, recordkeeping requirements that clearly state what 
records are to be created and maintained and on what medium. The 
standards on e-mail now being issued should be used by agencies as they 
develop or revise their own recordkeeping requirements.

6. Comment: The March Standards are Confusing and Poorly Worded

    More than 30% of the respondents, primarily Federal agencies, said 
that the proposed standards were unclear, inconsistent, or redundant. 
These comments concerned most sections of the March standards, 
including the guidance on drafts, scheduling, copies, recordkeeping 
systems, definition of records, calendars, preserved records, 
transmission and receipt data, backups, nonrecord materials, 
appropriate for preservation, monitoring, and permanent and temporary 
    Response: The final standards have been revised to eliminate 
redundancy and, as noted above, will put the requirements for e-mail in 
the context of overall records management responsibilities. These 
changes were made in response to the requests to clarify and focus the 

[[Page 44637]]

7. Comment: There is a Need for a Schedule for Implementation of the 
March Standards

    Approximately 30% of the Federal agencies expressed very serious 
concerns about the schedule for implementation of the March standards. 
These concerns were mainly based in the belief that NARA was imposing 
electronic maintenance of e-mail records, which would require 
expenditure of millions of dollars in some agencies to purchase the 
hardware and software required to appropriately maintain e-mail records 
electronically. The level of expense is significantly increased by the 
fact that, as agencies pointed out, off-the-shelf products that meet 
the requirements for electronic recordkeeping are not yet available. 
Accordingly, many agencies said that they would need several years to 
implement the proposed standards.
    Response: As indicated in the March standards, NARA recognizes that 
the variety of automated systems in Federal agencies have different 
characteristics and agencies have differing recordkeeping requirements. 
Agencies must determine whether their needs require electronic 
recordkeeping (rather than paper recordkeeping) and, if so, when to 
implement it. The essential point remains, however, that Federal 
agencies are obliged to identify and preserve their e-mail records. 
This obligation originates in the Federal Records Act, not in NARA 
standards. The final standards are intended to amplify the statute and 
improve the current regulations by focusing more on how agencies can 
fulfill their responsibility to preserve their records appropriately.
8. Comment: There are Difficulties Related to the Preservation of 
Transmission and Receipt Data

    A key component of an e-mail message is the information about who 
sent it, who received it, and the date. Approximately 30% of the 
Federal agencies expressed concern about whether their systems could 
capture and preserve transmission and receipt data with the record and 
whether their systems had the capacity to store it. Some agencies said 
their systems do not provide the full name of individuals so users will 
have to annotate the message to ensure that all necessary information 
is preserved. Agencies stressed that they should have discretion in 
determining what information is necessary for them to preserve as an 
adequate record; they believe that the requirements for preserving 
transmission and receipt data with e-mail records should be the same as 
apply to paper records.
    Response: The standards now being issued include fundamentally the 
same language on transmission and receipt data as was proposed in the 
March standards. E-mail records must identify who sent and received the 
message and the date. Otherwise, their usefulness as records will be 
greatly diminished because the context will not be understood. The body 
of the text has little value if the reader does not know who was 
involved in the communication and when it occurred. Agencies must take 
reasonable measures to preserve transmission data with their current 
electronic information systems and they should ensure that any new 
electronic information systems automatically include adequate 
transmission data on a paper printout, and, where electronic 
recordkeeping is used, that they preserve transmission data 
electronically. Agencies that are concerned about preserving receipt 
data should note that the revised standards direct agencies that have 
an electronic mail system with a receipt feature to issue instructions 
to staff on when to request receipts and how to preserve them. If 
systems do not have this feature or if it is impossible for agencies to 
preserve receipts, users should be instructed accordingly. The language 
on receipt data provides discretion to agencies on when such 
information should be requested. Only if it is needed for recordkeeping 
purposes should it be preserved with the record.

9. Comment: The Proposed Standards Do Not Address Privacy/FOIA 

    Twenty-two agencies (nearly 30%) believe that the March standards 
had Privacy and Freedom of Information Act implications. They suggested 
that staff members have the expectation of privacy or confidentiality 
when they send messages, and this would be violated if the messages 
were preserved as records and released to the public.
    Response: Agencies must determine what constitutes appropriate use 
of e-mail systems by staff members and what expectations of privacy may 
be assumed. This is not a NARA policy determination. For this reason, 
the standards now being issued have not been changed to reflect the 
Privacy/FOIA comments of agencies. Some of the comments suggest a 
misunderstanding of the distinction between personal materials and 
Federal records. For guidance in this area, see NARA's management 
guide, ``Personal Papers of Executive Branch Officials.''

10. Comment: The Provisions Concerning Backups are Confusing

    The March standards included a section on the suitability of backup 
tapes for use as a recordkeeping system. Several agencies found the 
discussion of system and security backups to be confusing and the 
distinction between the two irrelevant. Some also indicated that the 
proposal could lead to expensive changes to backup procedures.
    Response: The purpose of addressing backups in the standards was to 
stress that backups are not suitable recordkeeping systems. Their 
purpose is for recovery of data or systems in case of loss; their 
purpose is not efficient preservation, use, retrieval, and disposition 
of active records. Since this issue is part of the overall 
consideration of requirements for electronic recordkeeping systems, 
guidance on backups will be included in the future revision of 
``Managing Electronic Records'' and/or other guidance from NARA. 
Therefore, only one reference has been included in the standards 
pertaining to backups, and it has been placed in a paragraph concerning 
appropriate recordkeeping systems (36 CFR 1234.24(c)).

11. Comment: The Training and Monitoring Provisions are Unrealistic

    Twenty Federal agencies reacted to the provisions in the March 
standards that called for training all staff members on identification, 
maintenance, and disposition of e-mail records. Some agencies expressed 
the concern that it is unrealistic to expect records managers to train 
all agency employees or monitor staff determinations of the record 
status of every e-mail message. They indicated that it is impossible to 
ensure the effectiveness of the standards because of the huge number of 
users of e-mail and the responsibility that individual users must have 
for determining which messages are Federal records. Many were 
particularly concerned about the cost of monitoring, which several 
agencies estimated would require one records manager for every 100 
agency employees. No agency can afford to have a staff of hundreds of 
records managers monitoring e-mail determinations. All respondents who 
addressed this issue highlighted its excessive and unrealistic 
expectations. Agencies did not entirely object to any training and 
monitoring; they recognize that they have the responsibility to carry 
out both of these responsibilities. They objected, however, to what 
they concluded are the excessively burdensome and unrealistically 

[[Page 44638]]
requirements specified in the March standards.
    Response: NARA agrees that training and monitoring of e-mail 
determinations must be reasonable and within the administrative and 
fiscal capabilities of the agencies. Monitoring of record status 
determinations is an essential part of periodic overall reviews of the 
implementation of an agency's records management program. A specific 
reference to monitoring record status determinations of e-mail messages 
has been added to place this responsibility in its proper context 
within 36 CFR 1220.42, Agency internal evaluations. The same approach 
has been taken for training requirements. 36 CFR 1222.20 previously 
required agencies to train agency personnel on recordkeeping 
requirements and identification of records. This part now includes an 
amended sentence that stresses that training must pertain to all 
materials, regardless of media. Again, this puts training for e-mail in 
the context of existing responsibility. Agencies will be able to 
fulfill their responsibility to ensure proper management of e-mail 
records without significant additional burdens or expense if they 
include e-mail training and reviews as part of their ongoing programs.

12. Comment: NARA Cannot Impose Upon Agencies the Format on Which They 
Preserve Their Records

    The agency concerns about format centered on the expense and burden 
of maintaining e-mail electronically. As indicated in comment number 
one, above, they strongly stated that they are not in the position to 
preserve their e-mail electronically, and NARA should not impose this 
on them. Some respondents representing researchers advocated that e-
mail should be preserved in electronic format because of the electronic 
format's enhanced use.
    Response: NARA concurs with both of these seemingly contradictory 
positions. Electronic records that are appraised as permanent in 
schedules approved by NARA that are preserved in an electronic format 
will have enhanced usefulness for future research. This enhancement 
will accrue only if the records are preserved in an electronic 
recordkeeping system with records management functionality that allows 
for sorting, retrieving, and manipulating the records. This enhancement 
could also be advantageous for agencies while the records remain in 
their custody, and NARA encourages agencies to consider the benefits of 
electronic recordkeeping systems with full records management 
capabilities. However, the prospective interests of future researchers 
cannot be used to force agencies to do the impossible nor can these 
interests dictate to agencies how they should preserve their records 
for their own use. Agencies must create and maintain records to conduct 
Government business and account for their activities. Only the agency 
can determine what format best serves these purposes. Some agencies, or 
components of agencies, may determine that paper recordkeeping will 
continue to be adequate and cost-effective for the documentation of 
their transactions. In addition, it is clear from the agency responses 
that the lack of commercial off-the-shelf technology and the expense of 
custom developed solutions make electronic preservation of all e-mail 
records of the volume produced by the Federal Government impossible at 
the present time. For many agencies to fulfill their responsibilities 
immediately under the Federal Records Act they must print their e-mail 
records because no alternative currently exists. The final standards 
are designed to clarify this point. NARA guidance documents that are 
being issued will assist agencies as they consider making the 
transition from paper to electronic preservation. Meanwhile, agencies 
cannot wait until they have the technology to preserve their records 
electronically to apply these records management standards to their 
electronic records. E-mail records must be preserved in accordance with 
the provisions of the law and the capabilities of the agencies. Format 
concerns must not divert the agencies from this essential requirement.

13. Comment: There are Difficulties Concerning the Maintenance of 
Distribution Lists

    Maintaining the names of staff members on distribution lists 
presents numerous technical and administrative problems, according to 
the agencies. The dynamic nature and significant length of distribution 
lists make their preservation problematic for agencies.
    Response: Transmission data is necessary to understand the context 
of records in any media. Because in some cases e-mail is sent to 
individuals who are only identified on a distribution list, information 
page, or other screen that shows the names of individuals who received 
messages, agencies should make reasonable attempts to have this 
information available for the same amount of time as the record itself 
is retained. Those agencies that have limited technical capabilities to 
preserve distribution lists are not required to preserve them with each 
specific record. The purpose of this provision is to make the agency 
realize that for its own recordkeeping needs it must have a record 
available of the names of individuals who have received records. The 
information could consist of staff rosters maintained in a personnel 
office, electronic lists maintained in ADP offices, or lists that are 
automatically attached to the e-mail records. As with other format 
issues, NARA is not dictating how the lists are to be maintained.

14. Comment: The Standards are Not Necessary

    The agencies that stated that the proposed standards were not 
needed indicated that the existing law and regulations already require 
preservation of records, regardless of format. Some indicated that the 
need was for more guidance on specific issues such as functional 
requirements and adequacy of documentation.
    Response: NARA agrees that the current law and regulations apply to 
e-mail. The standards, however, are intended to highlight agency 
responsibilities as they use this relatively new technology for 
creation and receipt of records. The final rule provides the necessary 
context to underscore these responsibilities. In addition, as 
previously indicated, future guidance will respond to the requests for 
assistance from NARA in the other areas.

15. Comment: The Coverage of Calendars in E-mail Standards is 

    Numerous agencies and other respondents expressed concern about the 
provisions in the March standards on calendars. Some agencies indicated 
that their calendars were not part of their e-mail system. Others 
indicated that their calendars were not shared. A public respondent 
advocated that NARA provide specific guidance to agencies about 
identifying and managing electronic calendars that are records.
    Response: Some confusion has resulted from including instructions 
on calendars in proposed standards on e-mail. While some e-mail systems 
include calendars, providing extensive instructions on calendars in 
regulations governing e-mail was misunderstood by some. The final 
regulations continue to stress that calendars on e-mail systems, just 
as calendars on other media, may be records and, if so, General Records 
Schedule 23 applies. As noted in GRS 23, Federal records of high-level 
officials must be specifically scheduled to allow NARA appraisal.

[[Page 44639]]

16. Comment: Other Revisions or Clarifications are Necessary

    Many other comments requested clarification or revision of the 
March standards. There were numerous suggestions for alternative 
language and questions on adequacy of documentation, external systems, 
conflicts with existing laws and authorities, and the security of 
    Response: NARA revised the standards to reflect many of these 
comments, as explained above. Many of the other concerns are addressed 
in the NARA guidance publications that will be issued.

17. Comment: Concur with the Proposed Standards

    A few agencies and several representatives of the research 
community indicated their concurrence with the March standards. They 
believed that the standards were timely and necessary for the 
preservation of important e-mail records.
    Response: NARA believes that the final regulations continue to 
reflect the intent and spirit of the March standards that these 
respondents endorsed. Compliance with the regulations set forth in this 
rule will result in the identification and preservation of e-mail 
messages that constitute Federal records. Those that are appraised as 
permanent will be available in the future for historians and others who 
have expressed their interest and concern. Agencies will better 
understand their responsibilities under the final standards. 
Consequently, these standards will result in the preservation of 
messages that are Federal records and should continue to meet with the 
approval of those who concurred with the March standards.

    Federal agencies are using office automation to conduct significant 
activities. This challenges the agencies and NARA to ensure that 
records of the Federal government that are created through office 
automation are identified and appropriately preserved. NARA will 
continue to work with agencies to develop policies and practices that 
ensure the preservation of the content, context, and structure of 
records that are produced through office automation.
    As agencies become more and more accustomed to conducting their 
business electronically, they may find that automated records 
management provides a number of advantages that assists them in 
accomplishing their mission more efficiently and effectively. 
Electronic recordkeeping systems may be the best means to preserve the 
content, structure, and context of electronic records. In addition, an 
automated system may be more easily searched and manipulated than paper 
records. The electronic format may also allow simultaneous use by 
multiple staff members and may provide a more efficient method to store 
records. Furthermore, when they are no longer needed by the creating 
agency, access by future researchers to permanently valuable electronic 
records would be enhanced by electronic preservation. NARA will work 
closely with agencies as they pursue the next phase of office 
automation--comprehensive automated records management.
    To assist in the process of determining records status, NARA 
recommends that when agencies consider acquiring automated records 
management systems they include a feature that helps users identify 
records. For example, agencies may want their systems to allow users to 
tag documents as record or nonrecord material. Another option would be 
to install an automated records management system that analyzes the 
contents of a message according to specified rules in order to prompt 
the user with a suggested categorization.
    As agencies consider automated records management of their office 
automation records they should include in their deliberations the 
following broad functional requirements for recordkeeping systems:
    1. Recordkeeping systems must allow for the grouping of related 
records, to ensure their proper context.
    2. Recordkeeping systems must make records accessible to authorized 
staff, to ensure their usefulness to the agency.
    3. Recordkeeping systems must preserve records for their authorized 
retention period, to ensure their availability for agency use, to 
preserve the rights of the Government and citizens, and to allow 
agencies to be held accountable for their actions.
    When agencies take the next step in office automation, they should 
do so with the assurance that their records will be appropriately 
preserved and accessible. NARA and the agencies will work together to 
ensure that recordkeeping policies and programs for records that are 
produced through office automation serve the needs of the agencies and 
the needs of future researchers.
    This rule is contained in NARA's Regulatory Plan and is a 
significant regulatory action for purposes of Executive Order 12866 of 
September 30, 1993. As such, it has been reviewed by the Office of 
Management and Budget. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 
it is hereby certified that this rule will not have a significant 
impact on small entities.

List of subjects in 36 CFR parts 1220, 1222, 1228, and 1234

    Archives and records; Computer technology.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 36 CFR Chapter XII of 
the Code of Federal Regulations is amended as follows:



    1. The authority for part 1220 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. 2104(a) and chs. 29 and 33.

    2. Section 1220.14 is amended by removing the definition for 
``Information system'' and adding the following definition in 
alphabetical order:

Sec. 1220.14  General definitions.

* * * * *
    Recordkeeping system is a manual or automated system in which 
records are collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their 
preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.
* * * * *
    3. Section 1220.42 is revised to read:

Sec. 1220.42  Agency internal evaluations.

    Each agency shall periodically evaluate its records management 
programs relating to records creation and recordkeeping requirements, 
maintenance and use of records, and records disposition. These 
evaluations shall include periodic monitoring of staff determinations 
of the record status of documentary materials, including electronic 
mail, and implementation of these decisions. These evaluations should 
determine compliance with NARA regulations in subchapter B of this 
chapter and assess the effectiveness of the agency's records management 


    4. The title of part 1222 is revised to read as set forth above.
    5. The authority citation for part 1222 continues to read:

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. 2904, 3101, and 3102.

[[Page 44640]]

    6. Section 1222.20 is amended by revising paragraphs (b)(1) and 
(b)(5) to read as follows:

Sec. 1222.20  Agency responsibilities.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) Assign to one or more offices of the agency the responsibility 
for the development and implementation of agency-wide programs to 
identify, develop, issue, and periodically review recordkeeping 
requirements for records for all agency activities at all levels and 
locations in all media including paper, microform, audiovisual, 
cartographic, and electronic (including those created or received using 
electronic mail);
* * * * *
    (5) Ensure that adequate training is provided to all agency 
personnel on policies, responsibilities, and techniques for the 
implementation of recordkeeping requirements and the distinction 
between records and nonrecord materials, regardless of media, including 
those materials created by individuals using computers to send or 
receive electronic mail.
* * * * *

Subpart C--Standards for Agency Recordkeeping Requirements

    7. In Sec. 1222.30 paragraph (b) is revised to read:

Sec. 1222.30  Purpose.

* * * * *
    (b) Although many agencies regularly issue recordkeeping 
requirements for routine operations, many do not adequately specify 
such requirements for documenting policies and decisions, nor do they 
provide sufficient guidance on distinguishing between records and 
nonrecord materials, and maintaining records created or received on 
electronic mail systems.
    8. In Sec. 1222.32, the introductory text is revised to read as 

Sec. 1222.32  General requirements.

    Agencies shall identify, develop, issue, and periodically review 
their recordkeeping requirements for all agency operations and for 
records in all media, including those records created or received on 
electronic mail systems. Recordkeeping requirements shall:
* * * * *
    9. In Sec. 1222.34, paragraph (d) is redesignated as paragraph (f), 
and new paragraphs (d), (e), and (g) are added to read as follows:

Sec. 1222.34  Identifying Federal records.

* * * * *
    (d) Record status of copies. The determination as to whether a 
particular document is a record does not depend upon whether it 
contains unique information. Multiple copies of the same document and 
documents containing duplicative information, including messages 
created or received on electronic mail systems, may each have record 
status depending on how they are used to transact agency business. See 
paragraph (f)(2) of this section concerning the nonrecord status of 
extra copies.
    (e) Electronic mail messages. Messages created or received on 
electronic mail systems may meet the definition of record in 44 USC 
* * * * *
    (g) Agency responsibilities. Agencies shall take appropriate action 
to ensure that all staff are capable of identifying Federal records. 
For electronic mail systems, agencies shall ensure that all staff are 
informed of the potential record status of messages, transmittal and 
receipt data, directories, and distribution lists.
    10. In Sec. 1222.50 paragraph (a) and paragraph (b)(2) are revised; 
paragraphs (b)(3) through (b)(8) are redesignated as paragraphs (b)(4) 
through (b)(9); newly redesignated paragraphs (b)(4), (b)(6), and 
(b)(8) are revised; and new paragraph (b)(3) is added to read as 

Sec. 1222.50  Records maintenance.

    (a) Agencies shall prescribe an appropriate records maintenance 
program so that complete records are filed or otherwise identified and 
preserved, records can be found when needed, the identification and 
retention of permanent records are facilitated, and permanent and 
temporary records are physically segregated or, for electronic records, 
    (b) * * *
* * * * *
    (2) Formally specify official file locations for records in all 
media and prohibit the maintenance of records at unauthorized 
    (3) Formally specify which officials are responsible for 
maintenance and disposition of electronic records and which computer 
systems are used for recordkeeping;
    (4) Standardize reference service procedures to facilitate the 
finding, charging out, and refiling of paper, audiovisual, and 
cartographic and architectural records, and to ensure that reference to 
electronic records minimizes the risk of unauthorized additions, 
deletions, or alterations;
* * * * *
    (6) Review its records maintenance program periodically to 
determine its adequacy; audit a representative sample of its paper, 
audiovisual, electronic, cartographic, and architectural files for 
duplication, misclassification, or misfiles;
* * * * *
    (8) Establish and implement procedures for maintaining records and 
nonrecord materials separately; ensure that record materials generated 
electronically are clearly identified as records and protected from 
unauthorized change or deletion for the length of their scheduled 
retention period; and
* * * * *


    11. The authority citation for part 1228 is revised to read as 

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. chs. 21, 29, and 33.

    12. Section 1228.1 is amended by adding new paragraph (e) as 

Sec. 1228.1  Scope of part.

* * * * *
    (e) The material was created or received on an electronic mail 
system and it meets the definition of record. For specific instructions 
on the disposition of records created or received on electronic mail 
systems, see 36 CFR 1234.32.


Subpart A--General

    13. The authority citation for part 1234 continues to read:

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. 2904, 3101, 3102, and 3105.

    14. Section 1234.1 is revised to read as follows:

Sec. 1234.1  Scope of part.

    This part establishes the basic requirements related to the 
creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of electronic records. 
Electronic records include numeric, graphic, and text information, 
which may be recorded on any medium capable of being read by a computer 
and which satisfies the definition of a record. This includes, but is 
not limited to, magnetic media, such as tapes and disks, and optical 
disks. Unless otherwise noted, these requirements apply to all 
electronic information systems, whether on microcomputers, 
minicomputers, or main-frame computers, regardless of storage media, in 
network or stand-alone configurations. This part also covers creation, 
maintenance and use, and disposition of Federal records 

[[Page 44641]]
created by individuals using electronic mail applications.
    15. Section 1234.2 is amended by removing the definitions for 
``electronic records system'' and ``information system'' and adding the 
following definitions in alphabetical order:

Sec. 1234.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Electronic information system. A system that contains and provides 
access to computerized Federal records and other information.
    Electronic mail system. A computer application used to create, 
receive, and transmit messages and other documents. Excluded from this 
definition are file transfer utilities (software that transmits files 
between users but does not retain any transmission data), data systems 
used to collect and process data that have been organized into data 
files or data bases on either personal computers or mainframe 
computers, and word processing documents not transmitted on an e-mail 
    Electronic mail message. A document created or received on an 
electronic mail system including brief notes, more formal or 
substantive narrative documents, and any attachments, such as word 
processing and other electronic documents, which may be transmitted 
with the message.
    Electronic recordkeeping system. An electronic system in which 
records are collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their 
preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.
* * * * *
    Transmission and receipt data.
    (1) Transmission data. Information in electronic mail systems 
regarding the identities of sender and addressee(s), and the date and 
time messages were sent.
    (2) Receipt data. Information in electronic mail systems regarding 
date and time of receipt of a message, and/or acknowledgment of receipt 
or access by addressee(s).
* * * * *

Subpart B--Program Requirements

    16. In Sec. 1234.10 paragraphs (e) through (l) are redesignated (f) 
through (m); the term ``electronic records system'' is revised to read 
``electronic information system'' in paragraph (d) and redesignated 
paragraphs (f), (g), (h), and (m); and a new paragraph (e) is added to 
read as follows:

Sec. 1234.10  Agency responsibilities.

* * * * *
    (e) Ensuring that adequate training is provided for users of 
electronic mail systems on recordkeeping requirements, the distinction 
between Federal records and nonrecord materials, procedures for 
designating Federal records, and moving or copying records for 
inclusion in an agency recordkeeping system;
* * * * *

Subpart C--Standards for the Creation, Use, Preservation, and 
Disposition of Electronic Records

Secs. 1234.20 and 1234.22  [Amended]

    17. In Sec. 1234.20 (a) and (b) the term ``electronic records 
system'' is removed , and the term ``electronic information system'' is 
added in its place, and in Sec. 1234.22 (a) and (b) the term 
``electronic records system'' is removed, and the term ``electronic 
recordkeeping system'' is added in its place.

Secs. 1234.24, 1234.26, 1234.28, 1234.30 and 1234.32  [Redesignated as 
Secs. 1234.26, 1234.28, 1234.30, 1234.32 and 1234.34]

    18. Sections 1234.24, 1234.26, 1234.28, 1234.30, and 1234.32 are 
redesignated as Secs. 1234.26, 1234.28, 1234.30, 1234.32, and 1234.34 
and a new 1234.24 is added to read as follows:

Sec. 1234.24  Standards for managing electronic mail records.

    Agencies shall manage records created or received on electronic 
mail systems in accordance with the provisions of this chapter 
pertaining to adequacy of documentation, recordkeeping requirements, 
agency records management responsibilities, and records disposition (36 
CFR parts 1220, 1222, and 1228).
    (a) Agency instructions on identifying and preserving electronic 
mail messages will address the following unique aspects of electronic 
    (1) Some transmission data (names of sender and addressee(s) and 
date the message was sent) must be preserved for each electronic mail 
record in order for the context of the message to be understood. 
Agencies shall determine if any other transmission data is needed for 
purposes of context.
    (2) Agencies that use an electronic mail system that identifies 
users by codes or nicknames or identifies addressees only by the name 
of a distribution list shall instruct staff on how to retain names on 
directories or distributions lists to ensure identification of the 
sender and addressee(s) of messages that are records.
    (3) Agencies that use an electronic mail system that allows users 
to request acknowledgments or receipts showing that a message reached 
the mailbox or inbox of each addressee, or that an addressee opened the 
message, shall issue instructions to e-mail users specifying when to 
request such receipts or acknowledgments for recordkeeping purposes and 
how to preserve them.
    (4) Agencies with access to external electronic mail systems shall 
ensure that Federal records sent or received on these systems are 
preserved in the appropriate recordkeeping system and that reasonable 
steps are taken to capture available transmission and receipt data 
needed by the agency for recordkeeping purposes.
    (5) Some e-mail systems provide calendars and task lists for users. 
These may meet the definition of Federal record. Calendars that meet 
the definition of Federal records are to be managed in accordance with 
the provisions of General Records Schedule 23, Item 5.
    (6) Draft documents that are circulated on electronic mail systems 
may be records if they meet the criteria specified in 36 CFR 1222.34.
    (b) Agencies shall consider the following criteria when developing 
procedures for the maintenance of electronic mail records in 
appropriate recordkeeping systems, regardless of format.
    (1) Recordkeeping systems that include electronic mail messages 
    (i) Provide for the grouping of related records into 
classifications according to the nature of the business purposes the 
records serve;
    (ii) Permit easy and timely retrieval of both individual records 
and files or other groupings of related records;
    (iii) Retain the records in a usable format for their required 
retention period as specified by a NARA-approved records schedule;
    (iv) Be accessible by individuals who have a business need for 
information in the system;
    (v) Preserve the transmission and receipt data specified in agency 
instructions; and
    (vi) Permit transfer of permanent records to the National Archives 
and Records Administration (see 36 CFR 1228.188 and 36 CFR 1234.32(a)).
    (2) Agencies shall not store the recordkeeping copy of electronic 
mail messages that are Federal records only on the electronic mail 
system, unless the system has all of the features specified in 
paragraph (b)(1) of this section. If the electronic mail system is not 
designed to be a recordkeeping system, agencies shall instruct staff on 
how to copy Federal records from the electronic mail system to a 
recordkeeping system.
    (c) Agencies that maintain their electronic mail records 
electronically shall move or copy them to a separate 

[[Page 44642]]
electronic recordkeeping system unless their system has the features 
specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. Because they do not have 
the features specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, backup 
tapes should not be used for recordkeeping purposes. Agencies may 
retain records from electronic mail systems in an off-line electronic 
storage format (such as optical disk or magnetic tape) that meets the 
requirements described at 36 CFR 1234.30(a). Agencies that retain 
permanent electronic mail records scheduled for transfer to the 
National Archives shall either store them in a format and on a medium 
that conforms to the requirements concerning transfer at 36 CFR 
1228.188 or shall maintain the ability to convert the records to the 
required format and medium at the time transfer is scheduled.
    (d) Agencies that maintain paper files as their recordkeeping 
systems shall print their electronic mail records and the related 
transmission and receipt data specified by the agency.
    19. The heading of newly redesignated Sec. 1234.32 is revised, the 
term ``electronic records system'' is revised to read ``electronic 
information system'' in paragraph (a), and a new paragraph (d) is added 
to read as follows:

Sec. 1234.32  Retention and disposition of electronic records.

* * * * *
    (d) Electronic mail records may not be deleted or otherwise 
disposed of without prior disposition authority from NARA (44 U.S.C. 
3303a). This applies to the original version of the record that is sent 
or received on the electronic mail system and any copies that have been 
transferred to a recordkeeping system. See 36 CFR part 1228 for records 
disposition requirements.
    (1) Disposition of records on the electronic mail system. When an 
agency has taken the necessary steps to retain the record in a 
recordkeeping system, the identical version that remains on the user's 
screen or in the user's mailbox has no continuing value. Therefore, 
NARA has authorized deletion of the version of the record on the 
electronic mail system under General Records Schedule 20, Item 14, 
after the record has been preserved in a recordkeeping system along 
with all appropriate transmission data.
    (2) Records in recordkeeping systems. The disposition of electronic 
mail records that have been transferred to an appropriate recordkeeping 
system is governed by the records schedule or schedules that control 
the records in that system. If the records in the system are not 
scheduled, the agency shall follow the procedures at 36 CFR part 1228.
    20. Newly redesignated Sec. 1234.34 is amended by adding a new 
paragraph (c) to read as follows:

Sec. 1234.34  Destruction of electronic records.

* * * * *
    (c) Agencies shall establish and implement procedures that 
specifically address the destruction of electronic records generated by 
individuals employing electronic mail.

    Dated: August 14, 1995.
John W. Carlin,
Archivist of the United States.
[FR Doc. 95-21125 Filed 8-25-95; 8:45 am]