Analyst in American National Government
Federal departments and agencies create federal records in the course of their daily operations. Congress first enacted the Federal Records Act (FRA; 44 U.S.C. Chapters 21, 29, 31, and 33) in 1950. Congress deemed federal records worthy of preservation for their “informational value,” and also because they document “the transaction of public business” and the “organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government.” The FRA requires executive branch departments and agencies to collect, retain, and preserve these records.
This report provides an introduction to federal records. It describes the scope and requirements of the FRA and its associated regulations. Among the questions this report addresses are the following:
- What is a federal record?
- What is not a federal record?
- Which agencies are required to comply with the Federal Records Act?
- How do agencies transfer or dispose of federal records?
This report focuses on the executive branch’s federal recordkeeping laws, regulations, and policies. This report does not address the recordkeeping requirements of Congress, the Supreme Court, or the President. Additional information on presidential records is available in CRS Report R40238, The Presidential Records Act: Background and Recent Issues for Congress, by Wendy Ginsberg.
This report does not address the laws and policies that govern access to and protection of federal records, which is governed largely by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Background and analysis of federal information access and protection is available in CRS Report 97-71, Access to Government Information In the United States: A Primer, by Wendy Ginsberg and CRS Report R41933, The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background and Policy Options for the 113th Congress, by Wendy Ginsberg. This report also does not address the protection of classified information. More information on federal classification policies are available in CRS Report R41528, Classified Information Policy and Executive Order 13526, by Kevin R. Kosar.
This report will be updated at the beginning of each new Congress or the in the event of significant legislative activity.
Date of Report: May 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R43072
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