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put into effect by the records officer himself or a member of his staff, who should visit the offices having custody of the listed records to see that the records are removed from the files and disposed of. The problem is less simple when the list covers records of field offices. The best device in such a case is to send to each field office instructions to dispose of the records covered and to require it to report promptly when that has been done. It is seldom advisable to duplicate the list itself and send it out in lieu of instructions,
Applying Disposal Schedules to Records of Headquarters Offices
The problem involved in putting disposal schedules into effect is not 80 much one of seeing to the destruction of those records that are ready for disposal when the schedule is approved as it is one of seeing thereafter to the regular di sposal of affected records as they attain the age specified in the schedule.
The retention period specified in a disposal schedule will often be considerably longer than the period the records will be in active use, because certain records have to be kept for a time after they have become noncurrent for possible reference in connection with claims, investigations, and the like. For example, an agency's copies of pay rolls may not be used in the pay-roll office for more than 6 months after they are prepared, but it may be necessary for the agency to keep them for another 2 or 3 years for possible use in replying to exceptions taken to accounts. It is highly desirable in such cases to transfer the records as soon as they have become noncurrent to a records depository under the immediate control of the agency records officer, who will then be in a position personally to see to the prompt disposal of material at appropriate intervals. Such depositories have proved to be highly successful in the agencies in which they have been used.
Most records will be scheduled for disposal as soon as their immediate administrative use has ended, however, and to route such records through an intermediate depository before di sposing of them involves a needless expense. But to insure their prompt disposal in the offices in which they are kept the records officer must maintain a close control over the records in all offices and file rooms. Two devices have proved effective for this purpose. One is for the records officer to maintain a tickler file with a card for each item on an approved schedule. Working from this file he can send reminders quarterly or annually to each office that has the custody of records ready for disposal, indicating the records that should be removed from the files and destroyed and asking for a report of the action taken and the quantity of records involved. The other device is to have all requests for space or filing equipment for the storage of records clear through the records officer before administrative action is taken on them. The records officer can then determine to what extent the space and equipment needed could be provided by the prompt disposal of scheduled records and can recommend disapproval of the request if schedules have not been fully applied. This is a very effective instrument of control and often makes possible important economies.
Applying Schedules to Field-office Records
All problems of assuring the regular application of schedules at headquarters exist in an even more difficult form with respect to records in field offices. The War and Navy Departments have found it highly advantageous to maintain at strategic locations in the field records retirement centers under the control of the agency records officers. To these may be removed for storage records that are scheduled for disposal but that must be retained for a period of time after they have become noncurrent or semicurrent. As in an intermediate depository at headquarters, the records officer can control directly the process of actual disposal. Similar establishments may be found useful by other agencies with large concentrations of field records.
In most instances, however, the disposal of field records must be accomplished in the offices that have regular custody of them but under instructions from headquarters. Unless a schedule applies to one particular field office only and the staff at that office helped to prepare the schedule and thoroughly understands it, it will almost always be unsatisfactory and confusing to use copies of the approved schedule itself to serve as instructions to the field. It is much more effective to use for this purpose the regular medium employed by the agency for issuing general orders to the field. Authorizations obtained in several different schedules may be combined in preparing a single coraprehensive order to field offices with respect to the disposal of their records. An example of such an issuance is War Department Pamphlet No. 12-5, Records Administration, Disposition of Records (March 10, 1944). Regular reporting on compliance with such orders, as frequent inspection as is practicable, and review by the records officer of requests from the field for space and filing equipment are means of assuring that schedules are regularly and promptly applied.
Importance of Reporting
It will be found very helpful to require regular reports of the quantity of records disposed of and the amount of space and equipment thereby freed. Such reports are essential not only to assuring the application of disposal lists and schedules but to ascertaining the savings that have been effected by the di sposal program.
Methods of Disposal
Under the provisions of section 2 of the Disposal Act of July 7, 1943, as amended (see appendix I), the National Archives Council is required to issue regulations governing, among other things, the actual methods by which records authorized for disposal are to be di sposed of. Regulations of the Council promulgated on August 15, 1945 (see appendix I), authorize the following three methods only:
1. The records may be sold as wastepaper. This is the normal method. If it is employed, however, the records must first be macerated or othermise treated to destroy their record content or the contract for their
sale must include a clause prohibiting their resale as records or documents. Naceration or some other such treatment is advisable in the case of confidential records.
2. If the records cannot be sold to advantage or if the agency believes it necessary in order to prevent the disclosure of information prejudicial to the interests of the United States or of individuals, they may be destroyed by burning or otherwise.
3. The records may be transferred, with the approval of the Archivist of the United States and without cost to the United States Government, to any government, organization, institution, corporation, or person that has made application for them. The decision as to whether the records are to be transferred to an applicant is made by the agency that has custody of them, but they cannot be transferred without the approval of the Archivist. This method of disposal is desirable in rare cases, chiefly for field records that have substantial State or local interest but that have been authorized for disposal because the information in them is duplicated in headquarters files. It should not, of course, be employed for records containing confidential information.
Requests for the Archivist's approval for the transfer of records may come either from the agency to which application for the transfer has been made or directly from the applicant. If the application for approval is received from another agency of the Government, it is not necessary for the agency to transmit the original application or a copy of it, providing the request for approval contains all information necessary to determine the Archivist's decision. Applications received directly from the applicant are considered as requests for the Archivist's approval, and in the letter transmitting such applications to the agency concerned the Archivist'approval or disapproval of the transfer will be given. If the records have been authorized for disposal, their transfer will normally be approved except that records will not be approved for transfer (a) if they contain information the revelation of which would be contrary to the public interest or is prohibited by law, (b) to a foreign government unless it has a legitimate interest in them, or (c) to a private individual or business corporation unless they are necessary to the operation of properties transferred by the Government to the individual or corporation.
APPENDIX I-BASIC DISPOSAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS
AS AMENDED JULY 6, 1945
(57 Stat. 380-383; 59 Stat. 434] An act to provide for the disposal of certain records of the United States
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Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That when used in this Act, the word "records includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any agency of the United States Government in pursuance of Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of data contained therein. Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included within the definition of the word "records" as used in this Act.
Sec. 2. The National Archives Council shall promulgate regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, establishing (1) procedures for the compiling and submitting to the Archivist of the United States of lists and schedules of records proposed for disposal, (2) procedures for the disposal of records authorized for disposal, and (3) standards for the reproduction of records by photographic or microphotographic processes with a view to the disposal of the original records. Such regulations, when approved by the President, shall be binding on all agencies of the United States Government.
Sec. 3. The head of each agency of the United States Government shall submit to the Archivist of the United States, in accordance with regulations promulgated as provided in section 2 of this Act (1) lists of any records in the custody of the agency that have been photographed or microphotographed in accordance with the said regulations and that, as a consequence thereof, do not appear to have sufficient value to warrant their further preservation by the Government; (2) lists of any other records in the custody of the agency that are not needed by it in the transaction of its current business and that do not appear to have sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value to warrant their further preservation by the Government; and (3) schedules proposing the disposal after the lapse of specified periods of time of records of a specified form or character that either have accumulated in the custody of the agency or that may accumulate therein at any time after the submission of such schedules and that apparently will not after the lapse of the period specified have sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value to warrant their further preservation by the Government.
Sec. 4. The Archivist shall submit to Congress, at such times as he shall deem expedient, the lists or schedules submitted to him in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of this Act, or parts of such lists or schedules, and
Sections 4, 6, 7, and 12 appear as amended by the act of July 6, 1945.
lists or schedules of any records in his legal custody, insofar as it shall appear to him that the records listed in such lists or schedules do not, or will not after the lapse of the period specified, have sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value to warrant their continued preservation by the United States Government: Provided, That the Archivist shall not submit to Congress lists or schedules of records of any existing agency of the Government in his legal custody without first having obtained the written consent of the head of such agency.
The Archivist may also submit to Congress, together with recommendations of the National Archives Council with respect thereto, and at such times as he may deem expedient, schedules proposing the disposal, after the lapse of specified periods of time, of records of a specified form or character common to several or all agencies that either have accumulated or may accumulate in such agencies and that apparently will not, after the lapse of the periods specified, have sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value to warrant their further preservation by the United States Government.
Sec. 5. Whenever the Archivist shall submit lists or schedules to Congress, it shall be the duty of the presiding officer of the Senate to appoint two Senators who, with the members of the Committee on the Disposition of Executive Papers of the House of Representatives, shall constitute a joint committee to which all such lists or schedules shall be referred, and the joint committee shall examine such lists or schedules and submit to the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, a report of such examination and its recommendations.
Sec. 6. If the joint committee reports that any of the records listed in a list or schedule referred to it do not, or will not after the lapse of the period specified, have sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value to warrant their continued preservation by the Government, the Archivist shall notify the agency or agencies having such records in their custody of the action of the joint committee and such agency or agencies shall cause such rec- , ords to be disposed of in accordance with regulations promulgated as provided in section 2 of this Act. Provided, That authorizations granted pursuant to schedules submitted under the last paragraph of section 4 of this Act shall be permissive and not mandatory.
Sec. 7. If the joint committee fails to make a report during any regular or special session of Congress on any list or schedule submitted to Congress by the Archivist not less than ten days prior to the adjournment of such session, the Archivist may empower the agency or agencies having in their custody records covered by such lists or schedules to cause such records to be disposed of in accordance with regulations promulgated as provided in section 2 of this Act.
Sec. 8. Whenever it shall appear to the Archivist that any agency has in its custody, or is accumulating, records of the same form or character as any records of the same agency previously authorized by Congress to be disposed of, he may empower the head of such agency to dispose of such records, after they have been in existence a specified period of time, in accordance with regulations promulgated as provided in section 2 of this Act and without listing or scheduling them.
Sec. 9. Records pertaining to claims and demands by the Government of the United States or against it, or to any accounts in which the Government of the United States is concerned, either as debtor or creditor, shall not be disposed of by the head of any agency under any authorizations granted pursuant to the provisions of sections 6, 7, and 8 of this Act, until such claims, demands, and accounts have been settled and adjusted in the General Accounting Office, except upon the written approval of the Comptroller General of the United States.