“Green” Records and GSA

475 million pages of federal records have been collected by the National Archives and Records Administration in each of the last 10 years.Recently, this news story from Murfreesboro, TN, “County wants to clear up paper jam,” caught my eye,  because it’s about a government office dealing with its records.  It’s a problem we’re working on at GSA.  According to the the Rutherford County, TN spokesperson:

“We are storing records at the Sheriff’s Office, the basement of the old Health Department, and we’re of out space at the Archives Building…In some cases, we have to keep files 100 years or until the person’s death. We’re running out of space.”

I can relate.

As Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), I’m committed to transforming and simplifying our agency’s information technology (IT).  To that end, we’ve made tremendous strides in just a few short years: migrating to Google and rolling out other cloud-based services, upgrading hardware and software, and going mobile with smartphones and tablets, to name just a few major initiatives.

All of these innovations lead to the next development for GSA: electronic records management (ERM).  ERM is the combination of tools, technology and processes that allows GSA to manage our records electronically.  ERM is not limited to one format, but rather includes documents generated by Word, Excel and other programs; scanned documents and photographs; and audio and video files (in addition to other physical records).

ERM reduces costs, an ongoing goal for GSA and the federal government, by reducing paper and ink from printing, fuel and energy from transporting and storing hard-copy files, and even time spent looking for lost or missing documents.  Not convinced?  Well, how’s this for an eye-opening statistic: the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) estimates that the federal government’s 2.7 million employees produce an average of 475 million pages of information each year, and that electronic information has grown to an estimated 142 terabytes in recent years.  By any measure, those are mind-boggling numbers.

Importantly, as GSA continues to highlight mobile work for our employees – the ability to work anywhere, anytime, using any device – ERM ensures that we all have the information and files we need to get our work done, online and from any location.

Our move to greater reliance on newer technology is intended to make our workforce more productive and efficient, to save time and money for taxpayers, and to make GSA a technology leader for the federal government.  I’ll be talking more about these goals as we progress with our ERM initiative, which is part of a government-wide effort launched by President Obama last fall.  GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has until March 27, 2012 to outline our plan for improving our records management program and suggest changes in relevant statutes and regulations to that end.

ERM is intended to utilize technology to make obsolete the old practice of stacking piles of files in government buildings and warehouses, as Murfreesboro has been forced to do.  Here’s hoping we can be an example for other government agencies and organizations around the county to adopt ERM.