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431.6 Records Disposition


Date: 08/14/2020

OPR: Office of the Associate Chief Information Officer

Instruction: This is a new Survey Manual (SM) chapter.

1.  Purpose. This SM chapter establishes the policies, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes standards and procedures for all records disposition. The proper disposition of records ensures that USGS resources are used in an efficient manner and that the organization remains in compliance with Federal statutes and regulations. 


2.  Scope. This SM chapter applies to USGS employees at all levels in the organization.


3.  Authorities.

A.  44 United States Code (U.S.C.) §§ 2107, 2111, 2904, 3102, 3106, 3301 and 3302

B.  36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1226.1 through 1226.26; 1230.


4.  References.

A.  36 CFR, Part 1226.1 through 1226.26

B.  36 CFR 1234, Records Storage Requirements

C.  36 CFR 1236, Electronic Records Management

D.  44 U.S.C. Chapter 33, Disposal of Records (Federal Records Disposal Act)

E.  18 U.S.C. Chapter 101

F.  84 FR 14265, pages 14265-14267

G.  NARA 2015-04, Metadata Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Electronic Records

H. SM 318.1, Freedom of Information Act

I.  SM 431.1, Records Management Roles and Responsibilities

J.  SM 431.11, Litigation


5. Policy. The USGS Records Management Program (RMP, see SM 431.1) requires preservation of Federal records according to record disposition schedules approved by the Archivist of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). In order to meet this requirement, USGS is charged with holding records until they meet their disposition date – at which point records are either disposed of (as in the case of temporary records) or offered to NARA (as in the case of permanent records). Record holders must periodically test their electronic records to ensure that the record material is accessible and can be migrated to new formats as necessary. Additionally, USGS record holders must meet format requirements for NARA permanent electronic records prior to having records accessioned.


6.  Creating and Obtaining Disposition Authority. The USGS Records Officer obtains disposition authority by creating records disposition schedules with the record creators who are subject matter experts on the creation, application, and use of the records. The record disposition schedules are then approved and signed by the Archivist of the United States, NARA. When new records are created or when the record use changes, the record holder must consult the USGS Records Officer to initiate the scheduling or rescheduling process.


7.  Applying Disposition. Record holders should identify their records by series and file number. The USGS Records Officer maintains this information in the Filing Code Record Schedule List. Record holders must implement the record disposition instructions that correspond with the respective series, authority, and disposition. Record holders must note any application of record disposition schedules in the RMP designated tracking system. This includes the destruction of any temporary records or the accessioning of any permanent records. Electronic and digital records must be reviewed periodically and migrated to new formats as applicable to ensure that they are not lost to obsolescence to ensure that disposition can be applied when applicable.


A.  Temporary records that are maintained in an analog format may be managed digitally instead with the approval of the USGS Records Officer. Once approved, the record holder may dispose of analog copies.


B.  Permanent records are legally and physically transferred to NARA where they are preserved indefinitely and are available to researchers and historians, unless a documented restriction preventing access exists.


8.  Delayed Disposition Implementation. In the event records need to be kept beyond their disposition date for a continuing business need, the record holder must notify the USGS Records Officer.


9. Premature Disposition. In the event records are destroyed before their disposition date, the record holder must notify the USGS Records Officer. Refer to reporting requirements.


10. Unauthorized destruction, alteration, manipulation or removal. Records are government property that cannot be removed without Records Officer approval, inappropriately altered, manipulated, or prematurely destroyed before disposition is authorized or without an approval records schedule. Under any of these actual, impending or threatened circumstances, the USGS Records Officer is required to investigate and report to NARA the contextual information and the steps implemented to prevent the situation from occurring. Unauthorized removal will include retrieving these records with NARA or the Inspector General’s assistance, if appropriate.


11. Definitions and Terms.


A.  Alteration means the unauthorized annotation, addition, or deletion of a record.


B.  Archives and Record Center Information System (ARCIS) is the Web-based portal that the Federal Record Centers (FRC) use to manage record transfers.


C.  Deface means to obliterate, mar, or spoil the appearance or surface of a record that impairs the usefulness or value of the record.


D.  Disposition is the term used to describe when records are ready to be either destroyed or accessioned. All records are either temporary (i.e., eventually destroyed) or permanent (i.e., eventually accessioned into NARA holdings). Disposition is documented in a NARA approved records schedule that should be updated when business needs, usage or other factors change.


E.  Disposition Authority is determined by record disposition schedules. USGS works with NARA to determine the length of time records are held for business purposes prior to being destroyed or accessioned.


F.  Electronic Records Archives (ERA) is the Web-based portal NARA uses to accession permanent records.


G. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the law enabling the request for government information created or produced by the Federal Government, subject to FOIA disclosure rules either in full or in part.


H.  Litigation holds are directives to preserve information, regardless of form, that is relevant to pending or foreseeable litigation issued by attorneys regarding pending or expected litigation. (See SM 431.11)


I.  Off-site Storage is temporary storage for records that are inactive with a low reference need. USGS contracts with outside organizations to store records until they meet their disposition date. The Federal Record Center system (part of NARA) is a partner within the Federal government and provides storage solutions for Federal records. USGS also has options for commercial storage. Off-site storage must meet NARA standards under 36 CFR 1234.


J. Permanent records are records designated as historical that will be legally and physical transferred to NARA in accordance with NARA approved records schedules through the USGS Records Officer. NARA will ensure preservation in perpetuity and make them available to the public unless there are access restrictions.


K. Records Liaisons are designated personnel tasked by management for implementing records management requirements. Records Liaison Officers (RLO) reside at the Mission Area, Region, or major office level. Record Liaison Coordinators (RLC) reside at the Center level.


L. Record Schedules are the legally binding instructions that describe the type of records, provide instructions on how long to retain, format, as well as detail all disposition requirements or authorized options such as donating temporary records to another organization if approved.


M. USGS Records Officer is the Bureau-level official responsible for leading the Records Management Program in establishing policies, procedures, training, and evaluating Bureau records management compliance. The Records Officer is required by law to ensure Bureau record management procedures comply with applicable laws and regulations. The Records Officer may designate a member of their staff to act as a Records Disposition Coordinator to assist USGS personnel with managing disposition.


N.  Removal means selling, donating, loaning, transferring, stealing, or otherwise allowing a record to leave the custody of a Federal agency without the permission designated in records schedules or through approval requested and obtained by the Records Officer from NARA.


O.  Temporary records are those records that are destroyed at the end of their lifecycle.


P.  Unauthorized destruction, alteration, manipulation, defacement or removal are incidents of premature destruction, unauthorized manipulation, removal, or alteration either without an approved disposition authority; when the record has been approved for permanent retention; prior to the end of the approved retention period; or when the record is subject to another requirement such as FOIA requests (see SM 318.1) or under a litigation hold (see SM 431.11), to retain the record until request process is completed. This includes accidental incidents that may occur due to flooding or other unexpected changes.


Q.  Intentional or accidental destruction (also called unauthorized destruction) means disposal of an unscheduled or permanent record; disposal prior to the end of the NARA-approved retention period of a temporary record; and disposal of a record subject to a FOIA request, litigation hold, or any other hold requirement to retain the records. The USGS Records Officer is required to report any allegations or known incidents of unauthorized destruction, manipulation, or alteration of Federal records to NARA in violation of approved records disposition schedules or unscheduled records. This report to NARA provides details of the situation and steps instituted to prevent them from reoccurring, if the allegations are found to be true. Depending on the nature of the incident, NARA may refer it to the Inspector General for further review.


R.  Unscheduled records are records that are not covered under an approved record disposition schedule. Unscheduled records cannot be disposed of since there is not a legal authority to apply disposition. Treat them as permanent records (i.e., do not destroy) and notify the USGS Records Officer for establishing an approved records schedule.


12. Responsibilities.


A.  Associate Directors, Regional Directors, and Office Chiefs are responsible for ensuring their staff contact the Records Officer for developing, revising, and applying timely disposition in accordance with appropriate record disposition schedules.


B.  Center Directors are responsible for designating an RLC for the various types of records created and maintained in their Centers. They have oversight responsibility for the appropriate handling of Center records through the designation of the Record Liaisons.


C.  USGS Records Officer has oversight responsibility for the USGS RMP, ensuring accurate record disposition schedules, legally transferring ownership of permanent records, and authorizing approval of records destruction, donation, and reporting.


D.  Records Disposition Coordinator is responsible for identifying records that have met or will meet their disposition, soliciting and obtaining subject matter approval from the Records Liaison Coordinators and Officers, creating a listing of record storage areas, and preparing transfers to NARA.


E.  Records Liaison Officers and Records Liaison Coordinators (RLO/C) are responsible for collaborating with subject matter experts to ensure files are created and to oversee the review and disposition of these files. This includes obtaining the Records Officer’s (or delegate) concurrence for disposal or accessioning. RLO and RLCs also retire records to storage (either on or off site), create file inventories in Files Maintenance and Disposition Plans, and track the destruction and move of records in the designated tracking system, and communicate at least annually with Records Officer regarding the volume and types of records retired, destroyed, and offered to NARA as a permanent accession. Record Liaison Officers are appointed at the Mission level while Record Liaison Coordinators are appointed at the Science Center level.


F.  USGS Employees are responsible for organizing their records in a way that is compliant with all Records Management procedures (see Survey Manual Chapter 432.1, Files Management), enabling timely disposition in accordance with record disposition schedules. USGS employees are also responsible for periodically reviewing their records for migrating efforts as needed to ensure preservation for the length dictated in the schedule. Further, USGS employees must apply disposition to all records and notify the USGS Records Officer when disposition has been completed.


13.  Expiration Date. Effective until revised. This SM chapter will be reviewed every 2 years, or as updates to the law or higher-level guidance become available.




/s/ Katherine M. McCulloch                                                               August 14, 2020

__________________________________________                   ________________

Katherine M. McCulloch                                                                    Date

Associate Director for Administration