. . . NARA received only a few hundred thousand e-mail messages from the first Bush presidency and 32 million from the Clinton White House. . . . In comparison, it expects a whopping 140TB of data from the current Bush administration, more than 50 times what it received from the Clinton years. About 20TB of that is e-mail . . . .
It hasn't helped that the Bush administration has been slow in providing NARA with needed information about the types and volume of data that will need to be archived. It wasn't until this summer that an intensive effort began to share information . . . .
Much of the discussion has centered on how the White House will provide records in a format that is reasonably easy to use, since some of the systems are highly proprietary.
Adding to the drama, questions have been raised about millions of missing e-mails from between March 2003 and October 2006. In early November, a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive was upheld, challenging the White House's failure to properly store and recover millions of emails. In 2002, the Executive Office of the President stopped using the Automated Records Management System that had been in place since 1994, which automatically backed up all e-mails, but failed to install any other backup program . . . .
The Bush records will constitute the first large-scale, real-world test of NARA's Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system, which is still under development; assuming that the project doesn't suffer any funding cuts or hit any unexpected snags, ERA should be completed in 2011.
The article points out that ERA has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office and by some people within the archival community because of cost overruns, project delays, and other concerns, but it also highlights how the less-than-ideal state of records management within the federal government makes it harder for NARA to gain intellectual control over and provide access to archival electronic records.
ERA project staff believe that ERA is up to the challenge, and I really do hope that they're right. I, for one, am very glad that no one is sending 140 TB of data to my repository within the next few weeks, and I'll be watching to see what happens come January . . . .