News | Sept. 27, 2018

Records overhaul helps agency comply with Archives standards

By Amber McSherry DLA Information Operations

Cleaning up and restoring contaminated soil and groundwater at the 908-acre Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center in San Joaquin, California, is important, but so is properly storing the paper records of that effort.

The DLA Installation Operations offices in San Joaquin underwent a records management overhaul July 16-Aug. 3, in which the Environmental Division consolidated 350 boxes of records into 150 after organizing and indexing them. Lee Spikes, records officer for the component, conducted on-site training and evaluations at the center, prompting employees to clean up records that had been building up.

The records, which document the Environmental Installation Restoration Program at the installation, were not being kept according to National Archives and Records Administration standards. They were disorganized and stored in unapproved boxes inside an old outdoor container.

Had this not been addressed, “the paper would have slowly degraded from moisture, excess heat and possible infestation — losing the value they add to possible future litigation and Freedom of Information Act requests,” Spikes said.

During the overhaul, personnel put the records in approved boxes and moved them into a climate-controlled area. This will preserve the documents and ensure they’re available for the required 50 years post cleanup.

To complete the overhaul, Spikes also conducted an audit of the electronic file. The file was created in 2014 when the paper records were digitized to aid in indexing and retrieving the information. The audit determined all the information was retrievable, legible and filed properly.

Once the audit was completed, Spikes took steps to further preserve the digitized records by uploading them to the Document Automation and Content Services-Records Management system. DACS-RM is the agency’s official records-management application and preserves unstructured records through their lifespan. The system is used to gather, store, share and safeguard information while applying retention requirements. Component records officers throughout the agency are working to ensure all DLA records are identified, stored properly and added to DACS-RM.

Storing paper and electronic copies of these files is important, because hard copies ensure data is immediately retrievable by agency employees and the public. Maintaining both a hard and soft copy of the files with a long-term retention is also mandated by NARA.

Supervisors and data owners at all levels are required to manage records in accordance with regulation,  but this requires attention from all employees, said Cecilia Wiker, the records officer for Information Operations. Wiker leads a team of 16 records officers, including Spikes, at six sites. “It’s these little wins that keep us records managers going and re-motivates us,” she said.