WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to examine how lawmakers can work to ensure that presidential and federal agency records are adequately maintained and preserved. The committee heard from legal and records management experts on how failures by recent administrations to correctly handle important documents have resulted in a lack of transparency for the American people and impeded Congress’ ability to conduct effective oversight. The committee also heard how the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) lack of resources and outdated records management systems have prevented veterans – and other Americans – from accessing documentation needed to get critical benefits. During the hearing, Peters highlighted legislation he is working on to strengthen enforcement of the Presidential and Federal Records Acts and address the use of emerging technologies to ensure that future administrations are appropriately managing federal records.
“Accurate federal records are also critical to helping Congress hold the executive branch accountable, ensure appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, and make sure the federal government is working effectively for the American people. However, officials in previous administrations of both parties have failed to adhere to current federal record-keeping requirements, and in some cases, blatantly disregarded them,” said Senator Peters during his opener.
Peters continued: “Outdated computer systems and outdated laws that regulate federal record-keeping have also made the mishandling of sensitive and important documents more common. This can have severe consequences for government transparency and could conceal fraud, waste, and abuse from Congress as we work to provide oversight of the federal government.”
To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions, click here.
At the hearing, Peters and the witnesses discussed the most significant challenges to presidential and federal records management, and how Congress can work to address these issues. The witnesses also raised concerns about the limitations of current presidential and federal records laws and the lack of insight the public has into how administrations handle sensitive presidential records. Finally, the committee discussed what resources and technologies NARA requires to digitize the physical documents they store and modernize their records management systems.