OpenGov National Archives

Open Government Plan 2016 - 2018

National Archives and Records Administration

Executive Summary

The Open Government Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) serves as a public roadmap that shows how we incorporated the principles of open government—transparency, participation, and collaboration—into the agency’s core mission and how open government is fundamental to our work. Our leadership in open government is clear in our mission: We drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value government records. You will find evidence of our embrace of transparency, participation, and collaboration throughout our current Strategic Plan, our past open government plans, and in the work we do every day. With our fourth Open Government Plan, we intend to build on existing efforts and push for further innovation over the next two years. We welcome your input and help in shaping these open government initiatives.

Strengthen the Culture of Open Government
At the National Archives and Records Administration we strengthen the culture of open government through robust public engagement and employee engagement. Our efforts to engage the public include events, education, and exhibits drawing on our holdings and our unique role in the government. In October 2017 we will open an exhibit on the Vietnam War and launch a related social media campaign to collect stories about people’s own personal artifacts and documents from the war. We engage on social media, including participation in international Twitter campaigns and with staff participation on the @ThisIsArchives Twitter account. We engage the public through crowdsourcing projects in our Citizen Archivist Dashboard. Additionally, we engage the public through our traditional publications and through consultation webinars organized by the agency’s external affairs liaison. 

The Office of Research Services will carry out a comprehensive review of our services at 15 locations to identify any ways that holdings can be made more accessible to researchers with disabilities. Research Services will also seek to expand participation in NARA’s History Hub online platform and how this initiative might be best incorporated into the reference process. We will introduce staff reference colloquia that will provide a platform for promoting the sharing of records content knowledge among all NARA staff.  We will create a “Records Expert” program to preserve and develop advanced knowledge of key holdings among reference staff.  Additionally, we will work to begin posting a list of new holdings on each quarter and an annual list of all new holdings that were covered by the Privacy Act. We will also process and post documents on from the JFK Assassination Records Collection materials in compliance with the JFK Assassination Act Records Collection Act of 1992. The Office of Research Services will also provide training and development for staff members to foster customer service skills. 

Presidential libraries will continue to expand cooperative digitization projects to increase online access to the records. The William J. Clinton Library is in its second year of collaboration with the Office of Innovation on a pilot project to scan selected FOIA-responsive records. This project results in the scanning of textual records and the creation of necessary metadata so that these records can be made available through the National Archives Catalog. Pending funding, the agency is planning to expand this into similar projects at other Presidential libraries.

NARA’s efforts to improve employee engagement are continued in the agency’s fourth Open Government Plan. We describe our efforts at improving and streamlining employee communication and fostering collaboration, as well as building a cadre of managers and supervisors.  We continue to address employee satisfaction through project/action plans at the office levels.  NARA’s 311 service continues to improve employee access to internal services like the IT Help Desk, the Human Capital Office, Facilities, and other services. NARA also continues to promote training opportunities for employees and continues its work to document career paths within the agency. We are continuing our efforts to improve equal employment opportunities through the Special Emphasis Program, and the agency has also launched six Employee Affinity Groups, including groups focused on LGBT, veterans, Hispanic and Latino employees, individuals with disabilities, African American employees, and women. We will also continue to provide increased transparency to NARA’s budget and encourage greater staff engagement with reporting and performance measurements.  


Flagship Initiatives: Make Access Happen through Innovation
NARA sets 10 initiatives to increase access to the records of the National Archives through Innovation.

  • Initiative 1: Innovation Hub
    NARA’s Innovation Hub will explore developing pilots that leverage technology to significantly improve access to records as we scale to hundreds of millions of records online. Through the Innovation Hub, NARA will continue to expand outreach and streamline processes in citizen scanning activities and will continue outreach efforts to work with high school and college students as well as retirees on scanning and transcription projects. NARA will hire the first Innovation Hub director to lead these efforts.

  • Initiative 2: History Hub
    We will seek to expand the History Hub pilot, incorporating the platform into the agency’s reference workflow, marketing to a wider audience, and collaborating with other institutions.

  • Initiative 3: Social Media Strategy
    We will work to implement the Social Media Strategy and provide examples of specific actions that have been completed.

  • Initiative 4: Citizen Archivist
    We will seek to expand our Citizen Archivist crowdsourcing efforts and hire two community managers to help us develop engaged communities around our records. We will also continue to expand our collaboration with Wikipedia.

  • Initiative 5: User-Generated Finding Aids
    We will work to develop a solution for next-generation finding aids that are user generated and dynamically updated as information changes

  • Initiative 6:
    We will seek to incorporate user-centered practices into a redesign of and improve or build new digital initiatives based on user needs and data analysis. We will review web content to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to read on mobile devices. In the next version of, we will redesign the web pages supporting the “Charters of Freedom,” which include the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

  • Initiative 7: National Archives Catalog
    Over the next two years, our development of the National Archives Catalog will focus on improving the performance and scalability of the system, and using open source platforms, so that it can effectively provide access to tens of millions and eventually hundreds of millions of records.

  • Initiative 8: External Standards
    NARA will explore the possibility of aligning to external standards.

  • Initiative 9: Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC)
    We will continue our involvement in the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC), dedicating staff for continued coordination of drafting governance and administrative policies, establishing a governing SNAC Steering Committee, developing a formal training program, and a formal plan of cooperative management into the future.

  • Initiative 10: Digitization
    We will continue to digitize our holdings and establish a short-term digitization project plan that allows individuals or institutions focused on digitizing a smaller volume of material to enter into an agreement with NARA. NARA will work on digitizing content and developing a World War I centennial app. To ensure that the public has even greater access to the 1950 census records when they are released in 2022, NARA will digitize 9,000 maps from the 1950 census and put them online in the National Archives Catalog, where volunteers will create metadata that will enhance access.

New and Ongoing Open Government Initiatives
NARA will continue to work toward a reduction in the backlog of pending Freedom of Information Act requests and explore the best way to implement advanced search and auto-categorization tools that will allow for more efficient and robust search and review in response to all access requests. NARA will continue its implementation of the Open Data Policy and will work to add additional datasets to the agency’s Enterprise Data Inventory and on as they become available, including open educational resources from DocsTeach and a dataset with information on how individual agencies are managing their email. NARA will also work to enhance the “Amending America” dataset, containing more than 11,000 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, making it a rich resource for the public and developers. In accordance with the DATA Act, NARA will publish spending data on the website, making it transparent to the public. NARA will also work to strengthen the agency’s use of open source tools and platforms. Where NARA develops software tools in-house for the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) 2.0, we will release those tools to the public for reuse under an open source license with a public domain dedication. This section of our Open Government Plan also details our ongoing efforts related to: meeting the goals of the managing all email records in accessible electronic format by December 31, 2016, proactive disclosures, privacy, policymaking process, whistleblower protection, congressional requests, public notice, and plain writing.

Provide Leadership and Services
The Office of the Chief Records Officer will analyze new techniques for using data and information collected from oversight reports to assist agencies in making targeted improvements in their records management programs. In addition, NARA will improve reporting methodologies and develop questions to better evaluate agencies, particularly those identified in the moderate and high-risk categories for records management program failures. NARA will also be developing additional guidance related to the Presidential transition in the coming months. NARA will host an open meeting to solicit feedback from the public, agency customers, and other stakeholders on improvements to our website and the functionality of the Records Control Schedules repository.

The National Declassification Center is developing a special systematic declassification review program for previously reviewed and exempted historical federal records that were accessioned into the National Archives and reviewed prior to the creation of the center in 2010. By 2017, NDC will finalize its web and instructor-led curriculum in order to educate cleared declassification reviewers, records managers, and access and security professionals on the historical background to declassification requirements and the executive orders, proper document handling, general agency responsibilities, public access to federal records, and equity identification.

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) will work with other NARA offices to develop tools to teach students about FOIA, drawing upon real-world examples to foster democracy and explain how the public can use FOIA to learn more about the government's actions. OGIS will seek partnerships with outside educational and library organizations to create and promote standards-compatible curriculum resources that teachers can use in government, history, or civics classes. All developed resources will be posted online. OGIS will also work with the Department of Justice to develop standards for agency FOIA web pages. As part of this effort, OGIS will assist in developing a template for key elements and encouraging all agencies to update their FOIA websites to be consistent, informative, and user friendly.

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) will continue to monitor and report on the state of classification and declassification in government through its annual Report to the President; provide guidance and report on agency adherence to the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) as required by Executive order; continue its support to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), including support for the 2017 declassification exemption review required by Executive order; continue to provide all staff support for the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) and its Declassification Technology Working Group and will assist the Security Classification Reform Committee when requested to fulfill the President’s transformation tasking; and plan to issue a national implementation plan for the executive branch for the Controlled Unclassified Information program.

The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) is working on redesigning to improve search capability and to make it easier to distinguish official content that has been published in the Federal Register from material on public inspection, readers’ aids, and docket information. In partnership with the General Services Administration, the OFR will work to capture agencies’ organizational directories (from the U.S. Government Manual) so that they can be created and released as machine-readable raw data in a consistent format across the U.S. federal government. The OFR is also working to update the processing and publication timelines for the U.S. Government Manual, allowing for more frequent updating of this electronic publication and its underlying raw data. The OFR, in Partnership with GPO, is working to digitize historic Federal Register issues to make them available online.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) will implement a reimagined Access to Historical Records grant program in response to input from the archives and library communities. Based on recent public input, NHPRC will also implement the following enhancements: introducing a new application process in Fiscal Year 2017 that requires only a brief (3–5 page) preliminary application; reducing cost share requirements for some grant programs; streamlining the application peer review process; supporting an annual meeting of grant project directors to network with NHPRC staff, NARA staff, and each other; and conducting regular surveys of our programs and processes. NHPRC will continue to add more documents to Founders Online in Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018 as additional materials become available from the editorial teams that continue their work on the transcriptions/notations not yet completed. The NHPRC will also begin to collaborate with staff at the Library of Congress and other repositories to discover methods for linking digital scans of the original documents with Founders Online.