Coalition Letter on Electronic Message Preservation Act

September 16, 2010

The Honorable Joe Lieberman
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
United States Senate
340 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 2010

The Honorable Susan Collins
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
United States Senate
350 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 2010

Dear Chairman Lieberman and Ranking Member Collins:

We are writing in support of H.R. 1387, the Electronic Message Preservation Act, and to urge you to take up the bill before the end of the year.

Under current law, federal agencies have broad discretion to determine how electronic messages are preserved. Investigations and reports by Congressional Committees, several nonprofits, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) document the significant deficiencies in the preservation of email by the federal government. Since the introduction of this bill in the House, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released the results of an assessment of records management programs in the Federal Government that revealed 79% of reporting Federal agencies have moderate to high levels of risk of records loss associated with their electronic records management programs.

H.R. 1387 directs the Archivist to establish standards for the capture, management, and preservation of White House and of agencies’ e-mails, and certification standards for any electronic records management systems implemented at agencies. While we would prefer Congress pass a bill that requires agencies to implement records management systems that are consistent with modern technology, this legislation demonstrates the concern of Congress about this serious issue, and takes a first step to ensure that these vital records are preserved for the public.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this critical aspect of government management and accountability. We welcome the opportunity to discuss H.R. 1387 and the systemic problems with electronic record management in general. To arrange a meeting, please feel free to contact Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org at pmcdermott@openthegovernment.org or 202/332-6736.

Sincerely,

American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association Association of Research Libraries
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Essential Information
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
iSolon.org
The Multiracial Activist
National Coalition for History
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Whistleblower Center
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government
OpenTheGovernment.org
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of American Archivists
Society of Professional Journalists
Special Libraries Association
Sunlight Foundation
US Bill of Rights Foundation

cc:  Senator Tom Carper, Chair, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security

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