Monday, March 29, 2010

"Removing the Shroud of Secrecy": records management and open government

Last Tuesday (23 March), the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on "Removing the Shroud of Secrecy: Making Government More Transparent and Accountable." Members of the subcommittee, which is chaired by Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) heard testimony from, among others, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

In his written testimony and in the Webcast of the hearing, Ferriero stressed the centrality of records management to good government: "the government cannot be accountable if it does not preserve -- and cannot find -- its records." He went on to assert that heads of federal agencies and other senior agency personnel "need to understand that the records and information they and their organizations are creating are national assets that must be effectively managed and secured so that the public can be assured of the authenticity of the record [emphasis added]."

Well said. It's all too easy to forget that government records and information are, fundamentally, public property and that they warrant the same careful stewardship as other public assets, and we archivists and records managers need to keep reminding others of this essential fact.

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