NARA prepares for Bush's e-records.
Will the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) be ready for the estimated 100 terabytes of electronic records the Bush administration will hand over as it exits early next year?
Government auditors and NARA's inspector general warn that a key part of the agency's decade-long, $453 million Electronic Records Archives (ERA) project might not be ready in time to take Bush's e-records, according to FCW.com. ERA has suffered a series of delays and cost overruns, but the base system, with reduced capabilities, began operating in late June.
NARA and contractor Lockheed Martin have said that Executive Office of the President (EOP), the separate system for presidential records, will be available by the end of 2008. However, on May 14, Linda Koontz, director of information management issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security Subcommittee that timeframe is at risk.
According to her testimony, a history of delays with the ERA project, a tight schedule, and negotiations between NARA and Lockheed on the system's specifics and scope of work translate into uncertainty over whether the EOP system will be completed in time. NARA and Lockheed agreed to develop the EOP system and the base ERA system in separate but concurrent increments after issues with contractor performance and software integration caused NARA to issue a cure notice to Lockheed in July 2007, FCW.com said.
At the May 14 hearing, Lockheed spokeswoman Anna DiPaola said the program is still scheduled to be completed on time and within budget in 2011. However, according to GAO, NARA has estimated current cost overruns for ERRs development at $16.3 million.
Further complicating plans for the EOP system, according to Koontz, is the fact that NARA officials have not received details from the White House about the incoming records. NARA estimates that the Bush administration will be sending 50 times what it received from the Clinton administration.
Paul Brachfeld, NARA's inspector general, told the subcommittee that he learned that the Bush administration had not instituted a new e-records management system only from press reports and that he was never told about issues NARA was having with the White House. The controversy around the Bush administration's efforts to store and archive e-records, such as email, is separate from NARA and Lockheed's ERA project. However, ERA will play an important role when the Bush administration's e-records are turned over to NARA for safekeeping at the end of Bush's term.
NARA officials said they have an alternate plan in case the system is not ready in time for the presidential transition NARA and Lockheed officials also say they will merge the EOP system. which uses a commercial product. into the base ERA system to create the originally envisioned consolidated system by its 2011 goal. according to FCW.com,