National Archives Overhauls Public Comment Process on Records Schedules

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced effective March 4, 2019, it is changing the process for public review and comment of proposed records schedules. Under the old process, NARA published notice in the Federal Register of agency records schedules open for comment. People who wished to review and comment on the schedules had to request copies of the actual documents, submit comments, and receive responses via mail or email. Now the public will be able to access the accompanying documents online using the Federal eRulemaking Portal, https://www.regulations.gov. Click here for a NARA summary of the new procedures.

This new process eliminates the need to request copies of the schedules and appraisal memoranda. NARA will post batches of records schedules to regulations.gov as supporting “Other” documents at the same time as the notice. Comments on proposed records schedules can be posted directly on regulations.gov, thus streamlining the administrative process. NARA is also extending the comment period from 30 days to 45 days. The option to submit comments by mail remains for anyone who is unable to submit comments via regulations.gov.

Last December, the National Coalition for History sent a letter to NARA questioning the handling of certain records from the Department of the Interior. NCH joined with 12 other open government and transparency groups in the letter. Click here to see the letter.

In addition, the letter asked NARA to make the actual records scheduled for destruction available online so they are open to public inspection and comment and obviate the need to file FOIA requests. Although the changes announced today appear to address those concerns, the question becomes whether the online process implemented by NARA is user-friendly and delivers as promised. NARA is interested in receiving feedback on this new process at request.schedule@nara.gov.

Posted: March 18, 2019
Tagged: Around the Profession, Advocacy