I have written several times in the past about the "Electronic Records Archives," an effort to preserve and provide long-term access to uniquely valuable electronic records of the U.S. Government, and to transition government-wide management of the lifecycle of all records into the realm of e-government. You can find my past articles at http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22Electronic+Records+Archives%22&btnG=Search+This+Site&domains=blog.eogn.com&sitesearch=blog.eogn.com.
Now the National Archives and Records Administration and Lockheed Martin (prime contractor of the "Electronic Records Archives" project) say the system has passed a significant milestone, with the successful completion of government testing of the first delivery of software from the developer.
Here is the announcement:
Washington, DC…The development of the Electronic Records Archives ( ERA ) system has passed a significant milestone, with the successful completion of government testing of the first delivery of software from the developer, Lockheed Martin Corporation. ERA is the National Archives and Records Administration’s strategic initiative to preserve and provide long-term access to uniquely valuable electronic records of the U.S. Government, and to transition government-wide management of the lifecycle of all records into the realm of e-government.
Lockheed Martin started deploying ERA hardware last spring and released the first pilot software to the National Archives on September 27, 2007. After extensive engineering and end-user testing of the system, the National Archives gave Lockheed Martin the green light to complete development of the second pilot.
The first pilot supports creating and processing records schedules and requests for transfer of records. The second pilot, to be delivered at the end of December, 2007, will add system functions for transferring electronic records. The third pilot, scheduled for delivery in early March, 2008, will provide tools for automated inspection of electronic records. Ken Thibodeau, ERA Program Director at the National Archives, describes the pilots as “three ounces of prevention” aimed at ensuring that the system’s Initial Operating Capability ( IOC ) meets the government’s needs with a robust design and a high quality user interface.
This first milestone is the result of a two year process, and represents a shift in schedule. Lockheed Martin had planned to deliver in September, 2007, software that would enable officials from the National Archives and other agencies to use the system to develop and process records schedules and requests to transfer records to the National Archives as well as actual transfer, inspection and storage of electronic records. Translating the National Archives business needs into a working system proved challenging. Under a revised schedule, Lockheed Martin will deliver three software pilots, gradually including all the functions needed to reach IOC.
The National Archives will test each of the three pilots. After Lockheed Martin has addressed any items identified in National Archives testing of the pilots, it will release the IOC system for a final round of government testing in May, 2008. The National Archives expects to complete product and operational testing and put the system into operation by the end of June, 2008.
Government testing of the first pilot was performed by engineers and other technical subject matter experts within the National Archives. Additional technical experts who provide support to the program management office include contractors from the ALON Corporation and from Northrop Grumman Corporation, which offers independent validation and verification for the ERA development.
Testing of the next two phases will be expanded to include officials from other Federal agencies and from members of the Advisory Committee on ERA.
ERA is the National Archive’s response to the challenges stemming from the increasing use of computers in government. These challenges are two-fold. First there are major difficulties inherent in the diversity, complexity, and enormous volume of electronic records being created today, as well as the rapidly changing systems used to create, store and access them. Second, records management, the techniques used to ensure that records are kept and remain both accessible and reliable for as long as they are needed, must transition into the realm of e-government.
ERA will be a comprehensive, systematic, and dynamic means for preserving virtually any kind of electronic record, free from dependence on any specific hardware or software. When operational, ERA will support the National Archives mission by making it easy for the public and government officials to discover, use, and trust the records of our government, and to make it easy for the National Archives to deliver those records in formats people can use.
The National Archives main objective in developing the ERA System is to create a robust, high-quality system that meets the U.S. Government’s records management and archival needs – and equally important – to create a system that will be easy for people to use. The combination of ensuring that ERA will help the National Archives meet its business needs as well as to meet the needs of its stakeholders is not an easy task.
The National Archives needs are multi-dimensional: it has to help all other agencies manage the records they need for current business; it has to provide access to all types of records in the National Archives, Presidential Libraries and Federal Records Centers to anyone interested in them; in doing so, it has to ensure that legal restrictions – in its case virtually any restrictions on any type of government information -- on access are met; and it has to find a way to preserve and provide sustained access to an ever larger and ever more complex body of electronic records in a way that ensures the authenticity of the records while taking advantage of continuing improvements in technologies for search, access and delivery of digital information.
About the National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration ensures, for the citizen, the President, the Congress, and the Courts, access to records that document the rights of citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience. The National Archives plays a key role in fostering effective and responsible government through management of the records in all three branches of the Federal Government and through sustained access to historically valuable records in the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries.
The Advisory Committee on ERA ( ACERA ) is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Acts to advise the Archivist of the United States on technical, mission, and service issues related to ERA. This includes, but is not limited to, advising and making recommendations to the Archivist on issues related to the development, implementation, and use of the ERA system. Its members include experts in archives, records management, libraries, computer science, history, and the law, including representatives of other Federal agencies and of state governments.