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Information Governance in the Federal Sector: The Needle Just Moved

By Robert Smallwood posted 04-12-2015 12:55


Last week in my post titled, "A Call to Arms: The Records Management Revolt of 2015," I cited the egregious rate at which records are being deleted in federal government agencies. The State Department, for instance, deleted over 99.99% of their email messages in 2011, and even more in 2012, according to an Inspector General Investigation.

I noted that this is not a partisan thing, that both sides have been deleting the email trail and record of their actions, such as when the G.W. Bush administration 'lost' over 22 million email messages during the investigation of the firing of eight Attorneys General. 

I stated that the records management and archivists communities should be outraged and should begin a campaign to change the laws to ensure that the historical records of our government's actions on our behalf should be preserved. I offered a five point plan to accomplish this:

1) Trade organizations band together and pool their resources and fashion a plan for the campaign, then expand the coalition and recruit government watchdog groups;

2) Social media campaign - planned, methodical, vigorous, widespread, with measured metrics;

3) Traditional media campaign - TV, radio (coalition members should appear on local, regional, and national political talk shows), print advertising (focused on the D.C. market), and direct mail targeted to the president and all members of congress;

4) Targeted campaign to meet with all 535 members of congress on the issue. Beginning with a massive one million letters and postcards, and at least 10,000 telephone calls to congressional offices to raise awareness and request a meeting;

5) Protest march - I would be glad to lead one in Washington D.C. during the ARMA International Annual Conference & Expo Oct. 5-7, 2015.

In just one week, the needle toward good Information Governance in the federal sector has moved.

Three of the five action items above have begun in earnest!

Last Thursday, before a panel discussion on on C-SPAN titled, "Hillary Clinton's Personal Email Account" it was announced that the IG Initiative, ARMA, AIIM, AHIMA, PRISM, and NAID had formed an alliance to pursue policy changes in the federal government that will result in improved record keeping. The panel discussion was promoted on social media and streamed to a worldwide audience. 

The panelists included:

  • Jason Baron, Co-Chair IG Initative
  • Tom Blanton, Executive Director, National Security Archive
  • Liz Icenogle, ARMA Director of Government Affairs
  • Patrice McDermott, Director, OpenThe

Here are some selected quotes from the discussion:

"The 2009 NARA regulations that were in effect during most of Ms. Clinton's tenure in office allowed for exceptional cases [to using approved government networks for communicating] but only to a limited extent."  
       - Jason R. Baron, IG Initiative
"It is stunning, but not an isolated example. It certainly didn't begin with this administration.... This has been a problem for many years, since email first began to be used in government." 
       - Patrice McDermott, Director, OpenThe 
"We believe that federal government has the ability to be a catalyst for good Information Governance practices throughout our nation. When we look at the federal practices as they stand, we see many holes."
      - Liz Icenogle, ARMA 
"CIOs across the federal government spend $81 billion dollars a year of our money... if they do not 'bake in' [records management capabilities for meeting] the legal requirements of saving, preserving, and accessing FOIA requests they are wasting our money."
       - Tom Blanton, National Security Archive
"We need to have better Information Governance throughout the federal government."   
      - Jason R. Baron, IG Initiative
"We have a 30-year gap in the historical record of our country." 
     - Tom Blanton, National Security Archive

I encourage you to watch the panel discussion and join the effort and assist in moving this issue forward to ultimately change the laws. Contact your congressional representatives today and join the coalition for advancing this cause.

I'd love to continue the dialogue and debate. I invite all federal employees and others who have an interest in records management issues to come hear me speak at the D.C. Live Business Process Management & Records Management Conference & Expo on Tuesday, April 21, at the Capitol Hilton. I'll be giving the keynote address regarding these and other timely IG issues.

It is a FREE event packed with informative sessions. It is open to the public and private sector, with breakfast and lunch buffet provided, and there will be a drawing for free signed copies of my books.

It will be crowded as the registration goal has already been exceeded! It'll be a great networking opportunity and CRMs can earn ICRM credits for attending. So register today - come join us!


Robert Smallwood is Managing Director of the Institute for IG at IMERGE Consulting, which can be found at He teaches comprehensive courses on IG and E-records management for corporate and public sector clients. He is the author of 3 leading books on Information Governance: Information Governance: Concepts, Strategies. and Best Practices (Wiley, 2014); Managing Electronic Records: Methods, Best Practices, and Technologies (Wiley, 2013); and Safeguarding Critical E-Documents (Wiley, 2012).

Follow Robert on Twitter @RobertSmallwood and if we are not connected - please feel free to reach out!