Recordkeeping requirements for US federal employees are among the strictest in the world.
Archived information generated from work-related communication is supposed to be stored securely in an accessible manner for as long as the regulations, such as the U.S. Government National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), The Federal Records Act, etc., mandate.
As a result, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has also released frequent instructions that the various agencies under it have to follow to ensure transparency and accountability among its employees.
Among these, instructions 5015.02 and 8170.01 have focused extensively on federal agencies’ archiving requirements and guidelines for the use of mobile devices and apps for official communication as part of the DoD.
Key aspects of Instructions 5015.02 and 8170.01
In 2017, the DoD updated its 5015.02 instructions to emphasize the need for incorporating records management into their new and existing IT systems.
Along with the records management, these systems also needed to be able to preserve records as per NARA-approved records disposition schedules/ retention periods. Notably, federal employees need to retain text messages, which are considered records as per the Federal Records Act.
Other than that, there is the requirement that records, both online and the ones created using official or personal electronic messaging services, be preserved. This requires federal agencies to also record WhatsApp calls and messages of their employees.
Per administration guidelines, these electronic messaging records are to have a retention period of at least 7 years.
The instruction is meant to ensure that the agencies can comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), meaning the agencies also need to store the employee communication in a manner that is easily accessible. For effective communication compliance, the agencies under the DoD need to archive texts along with the context, such as sender information, recipient information, time, date, etc.
5015.02 also lays out the rules to be followed when it comes to using various electronic messaging applications or accounts. Crucially, it prohibits, with limited exceptions, the use of personal accounts for official DoD business out of preference or convenience.
However, if federal employees (DoD personnel) uses a non-official / unapproved account to conduct official business, they need to forward the communication to an official account within 20 days of the creation of the original record.
Meanwhile, the 8170.01 instructions from the DoD establishes policies and assigns responsibilities for maintaining electronic messaging services, including social media accounts, emails, etc. The directive covers both classified and unclassified official information on the DoD information network and other networks. Given the sensitive nature of the information, the recordkeeping has to be consistent with Section 2911 of Title 44, U.S.C. This means that an agency employee can’t send an official record using an unapproved electronic messaging account, unless:
- A complete copy of the record is forwarded to an official account within 20 days of creating the original record
- The message sent is a copy of an original record created in an official electronic messaging account of an officer or agency employee
- They are exempt because there was an emergency or a critical mission need/ official communication channels were unavailable
The directive from the DoD even goes on to mention that its personnel may use unofficial / unapproved accounts for professional networking that is not directly related to their official mission activities. However, it warns against disclosing classified or sensitive information via personal communication channels, such as social media. Further, the personnel are to use non-mission-related contact information, like email IDs, phone numbers, and postal addresses to set up their accounts. There are even restrictions on what can be communicated through the personal accounts. For instance, comments denigrating civilian members of the DoD team or another military are prohibited, along with comments or communication that can be deemed as harassment or discrimination in any form.
To guarantee that the employees are all using their mobile devices and applications, including electronic messaging services, responsibly and in a compliant manner, the directive further requires regular, scheduled training to be provided to DoD mobile users.
The DoD, like all other federal departments across the US, is steadily transitioning to an all-electronic recordkeeping model. Eventual plans of moving to a Capstone approach to managing digital records, where the categorization of the communication and its eventual retention or deletion is done based on the employee’s role, and other initiatives, such as the 5015.02 and 8170.01 directives are all part of its wide push for increased transparency and compliance with recordkeeping and disclosure regulations. Additionally, the department is taking precautions to ensure that all its agents are using approved devices and electronic messaging services, with few exceptions. Given this reality, it is mission-critical for the agencies to have in place a network archiver that can capture all messages sent in the network, without being dependent on the device, operating system, or carrier. Using an archiver, the federal agencies that make up the DoD can rest assured that their employee communication is retained for as long as necessary and that it is fully compliant as well. To get started with a preview of what a network archiver can do for the agency, get in touch now for a demo.
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