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as, "3 years or until photographed or microphotographed in accordance with the regulations of the National Archives Council." Statements of the retention period in the form "destroy after 2 years" or "dispose of after 2 years are not acceptable.
Description of Records in a Disposal Schedule
In a disposal list the descriptions relate to existing bodies of records; in a disposal schedule the descriptions must define and identify classes of records that are accumulating continuously and they must be sufficiently specific to enable a clerk several years after the schedule has been prepared to be certain whether particular records are or are not covered by the schedule. The records covered by an item may be defined by some physical characteristic, such as a form number; by the function to which they relate, for example, "all records relating to the procurement and distribution of shoes"; by the office that creates them, for example, "all records of local price and rationing boards"; or by a combination of these criteria, as, "all requisitions, forms 29, used in the procurement of textiles."
Sections of a classified file that are covered by items on a disposal schedule may be identified by giving merely the file classification numbers and headings. A statement should be included in the schedule, however, to the effect that the items are intended to cover records filed under the specified headings according to the agency file classification manual (indicating the title and date of the edition of the manual), a copy of which should be transmitted with the schedule and by reference made a part thereof. This procedure obviates the necessity of incorporating in the schedule extended identifications of the kinds of records filed under each classification. As indicated later in this section, however, caution should be used in basing a schedule entirely on a file classification that is subject to frequent change.
The coverage of an item in a schedule may be very broad. Descriptions of the content of the records, though very helpful in appraisal, are not essential. What is essential is that the description must clearly and unmistakably identify the class of records covered so that no confusion will later arise as to the authority to dispose of any particular records. For this reason descriptions that attempt to identify records by such terms as "routine," "ephemeral," and "of transitory value," which are in effect subjective appraisals, or by such terms as "and similar papers," "and the like," and "etc." are unacceptable.
Basic Planning of a Disposal Schedule
It should be emphasized that a schedule constitutes a basic and continuing program for disposing of the records of an agency or a subdivision of an agency. The difficult part of preparing such a schedule is not in filling out the appropriate form, which has been discussed above, but in planning the schedule so that it will constitute a program that is practicable and workable. The test of such a program is whether the records
covered in the schedule can actually be removed and disposed of promptly upon the expiration of the retention period. Every step in the design of the schedule should be taken with the purpose of facilitating this final operation. Some practical suggestions to this end are given below:
l. It is unwise to make the identification of the records depend on form numbers or filing schemes that are subject to frequent change. If records are identified only as "Form 34, Requisition for Supplies," and this form is replaced by "Form 29, Request for Office Supplies," the item in the schedule is no longer applicable. An item describing the records as "Forms used for the requisition of office supplies" would still be applicable.
2. The schedule should conform to the way the records are filed. If a separate series is kept for a particular forn, for example, it is practicable to have an item in a schedule relating to that form alone. But if each form is filed in a folder with other forms relating to the same transaction (for example, if requisitions are filed in the same folders with invitations to bid, purchase orders, receiving and inspection reports, and vouchers relating to the respective purchases), it is useless to have an item in a schedule relating to only one of these forms; the contents of the folders should be described as a unit in a single item in the schedule. Very often it will be found that the filing system is such that a schedule is impracticable because the records that should be scheduled for disposal are so intermingled with those that should be preserved that it would be impossible to apply the schedule. When this situation is encountered the records officer's job is to revise the filing system so that the records can be effectively scheduled.
3. The retention period and the filing system should be so related that it is possible easily to segregate the records for which the retention period has expired. For example, if requests for publications are scheduled for disposal after 1 year, but the requests are filed in an alphabetical file that is broken only every 10 years, it will be difficult to apply the schedule. In such instances it is generally best to revise the filing system by introducing frequent chronological breaks that correspond with a wisely chosen retention period.
4. Records of all field offices of a given class should ordinarily be covered in a single schedule prepared in the headquarters of an agency. It would obviously be impracticable for the agency or the National Archives to handle 6,000 varying schedules for the 6,000 local price and rationing boards of the Office of Price Administration. One schedule covering all field offices of such a class can be prepared with much greater care than could be given to a schedule of any one office and can be enforced practically as a part of the basic regulations of the agency.
5. Schedules will not work if they are too complicated. If a schedule has several thousand or even several hundred separate items each covering a very small body of records that may be filed quite differently a year later, it will break down completely in operation. The Army, for example, at each of its lower equipment maintenance centers uses almost innimerable forms and kinds of records in the course of routine operations. None of
these are of more than transitory value, yet to have supplied each of hundreds of such centers with schedules listing every kind of record created with a separate retention period for each and to have expected them to be applied was obviously out of the question. Instead, a schedule containing the following two items was submitted to the Archivist, who promptly reported it to Congress,
1. Records relating to Organizational Maintenance Operations, which
consist of operations performed by first and second maintenance echelons and involve preventive maintenance.
6 months. All record copies. 2. Records relating to Reconditioning Maintenance Operations, which
consist of service maintenance operations performed by third, fourth, and fifth maintenance echelons, and concern the renovation, repair, and overhauling or rebuilding in order to return matériel items to a state of serviceability.
6 months. All record copies. The two items listed on this schedule will not be construed to include records relating to: Engineer Repair and Utilities Maintenance Functions, Military Property Accounts forming an integral
part of a property accounting system, or Salvage Functions. Scheduling in such broad terms imposes the obvious necessity of scrupulous care in the identification of the records covered, but it is the only realistic means of dealing with enormous masses of routine records.
Action on Disposal Lists and schedules by the National Archives and by
When a list or schedule has been completed and all necessary approvals within the agency have been obtained, the ribbon copy and one carbon copy are submitted to the National Archives with accompanying samples of the records listed or scheduled. No covering letter is necessary. The agency is notified by the National Archives of the receipt of the list or schedule and of the number assigned to it, by which it can be identified in subsequent correspondence. The list or schedule is then assigned to the appropriate records division and a competent member of the staff appraises the records described in each item. Upon the approval of the appraisals within the National Archives, items or parts of items are deleted if the description of the records or, in the case of schedules, the statement of the retention period is not specific enough or if they relate to records that it appears have or will after the lapse of the retention period have sufficient value to justify their further retention by the Government. The list or schedule is then transmitted by the Archivist to Congress, where it is referred to the Joint Committee on the Disposition of Executive Papers. If the Committee reports that the records covered do not or will not after the lapse of the specified retention periods have sufficient value to justify their further preservation by the Government, the Archivist notifies the agency and returns á copy of the list or schedule as approved with explanations of the appraisals. The list or schedule can then be put into effect.
If, in the course of appraisal by the National Archives, it appears that certain items cannot be reported to Congress without revision, an
opportunity is usually given the agency informally to amend them. Such amendments and amendments the agency wishes to make on its own initiative can be effected by having the official who signed the schedule initial the necessary changes or by submitting a letter to the National Archives before the list or schedule is transmitted to Congress specifying the changes desired and enclosing revised pages if the changes are substantial. Items may be withdrawn from a list or schedule under review prior to submission to Congress by notifying the Archivist in writing.
The foregoing comments have been confined to disposal schedules, in which only records proposed for disposal after the lapse of a specified period of time are covered. A more effective instrument for records management within an agency is the comprehensive schedule, in which items are included for all records of an agency or part of an agency covered by the schedule, indicating the action to be taken with respect to each body of records when it becomes noncurrent. In items relating to records not proposed for disposal, there is substituted for the statement of the retention period some such statement as "To be offered for transfer to the National Archives after 5 years" or "To be transferred to Naval Records Deposi tory after 1 year." The National Archives in acting on comprehensive schedules does not appraise those records that are not proposed for disposal, and the reporting of such a schedule to Congress by the Archivist does not constitute a commitment to accept records proposed therein for ultimate transfer to the Nationai Archives. But the records proposed for di sposal on a comprehensive schedule are easier to appraise in the National Archives than are those on a disposal schedule, because the appraiser has at hand information as to what related records are in existence and are to be retained. Moreover, a comprehensive schedule gives the records officer in the agency an effective instrument for control over the entire process of records retirement.
Disposal of Records That Constitute a Menace to Life, Health, or Property
If any records constitute an acute fire hazard or other menace to life, heal th, or property and it is consequently desirable to dispose of them without awaiting the course of normal procedures, the head of the agency or his authorized representative should notify the Archivist in writing that he has determined that the records constitute a menace to human life or health or to property. If the Archivist concurs in this determination, he will direct the immediate removal of the menace by destruction of the records or by other appropriate means. After records found to be a menace have been disposed of, the Archivist should be notified in writing of the tine and manner of disposal.
An amendment to the Disposal Act of July 7, 1943, approved July 6, 1945, authorizes the Archivist to prepare and submit to Congress general schedules proposing the disposal, after specified periods of time, of
records common to several or all agencies of the Government that either have accumulated or may accumulate in such agencies. After approval by Congress and promulgation by the Archivist, these general schedules constitute authorization, after the lapse of the periods of time specified, to dispose of the records described. The law provides, however, that these general schedules are permissive rather than mandatory; that is, no agency is required to dispose of the records covered by the schedule after the lapse of the periods of time specified.
After the issuance of a general schedule, no agency of the Government needs to submit to the Archivist either disposal lists or schedules covering records of the form or character specified in the general schedule if it wishes to dispose of them after they have reached the age specified in the schedule. If an agency wishes to dispose of records of the same form or character as those authorized for disposal in a general schedule in less time than the period specified, the agency must obtain authorization by means of a disposal list or schedule. General schedules do not invalidate schedules previously authorized applying to records of single agencies if the retention periods on the earlier schedules are shorter than those on the general schedules.
As a general rule, approved general schedules that are issued by the Archivist have been cleared with other interested agencies ment. It should be noted, however, that issuance of a general schedule by the Archivist does not relieve an individual agency from the responsibility of obtaining the approval of the Comptroller General of the United States to dispose of records pertaining to claims and demands by or against the Government or to any accounts in which the Government is concerned as required by section 9 of the Disposal Act of July 7, 1943, as amended.
For additional information concerning general schedules, communicate with the Records Appraisal Officer, the National Archives, extension 347.
PUTTING APPROVED LISTS AND SCHEDULES INTO EFFECT
The preparation and the submission of disposal lists and schedules accomplish little unless the records covered are promptly and regularly disposed of. This step will often be found to be the most difficult part of the problem. Lists and schedules do not apply themselves, and to see that they are put fully into effect will require a constant and diligent follow-up on the part of the records officer. It should be noted that except for general schedules initiated by the Archivist the law makes mandatory the disposal of records covered by approved lists and schedules.
Putting Lists Into Effect
Lists are less difficult to apply than schedules. Since they relate only to bodies of records already in existence and ready for disposal and since their purpose has been accomplished once those particular bodies are di sposed of, Hists do not present a problem of continuing application. Approved disposal lists covering records of headquarters offices are best