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Obama Orders Federal Agencies To Digitize All Records

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-90s dept.

Government 186

Lucas123 writes "President Obama this week issued a directive to all federal agencies to upgrade records management processes from paper-based systems that have been around since President Truman's administration to electronic records systems with Web 2.0 capabilities. Agencies have four months to come up with plans to improve their records keeping. Part of the directive is to have the National Archives and Records Administration store all long-term records and oversee electronic records management efforts in other agencies. Unfortunately, NARA doesn't have a stellar record itself (PDF) in rolling out electronic records projects. Earlier this year, due to cost overruns and project mismanagement, NARA announced it was ending a 10-year effort to create an electronic records archive."

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Anonymous Coward orders you to suck his cock (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210446)

open wide!

This shouldn't cost too much. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210484)

There are only about 1,300 federal agencies. Each will need it's own resources to come up with a specialized method that will work for them...
A couple of trillion should do the trick.
Think of all the jobs this will create! Can you feel the stimulus?

Re:This shouldn't cost too much. (4, Interesting)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210674)

Questions worth considering:

What are the savings for going digital? (Without a doubt, they exist; if not, we'd still all be filling out forms in triplicate at work.)

What is the up front cost to convert?

How long will it take the up front cost to be absorbed by the savings?

I suspect that it will pay for itself faster than you might think. Paper records searches are expensive to say the least. And they're extremely personal intensive, not to mention inefficient and error prone.

I realize that there are people out there who will condemn anything this administration does out of hand, but at least try to pretend that you think about things before you make a judgement.

It's all about the formats! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210916)

You missed the most important question worth considering - in what formats will these records be maintained?

And Obama missed it, too. I don't see anything in his directive about it.

Good archival practice entails preserving original documents, not just scanned copies.

And if the purpose is to place documents on the Internet, then it's a GIGO situation. If you allow garbage, closed formats like .doc or .docx or .xls or .xlsx to be put on the Web, you're not serving transparency very well, and you're defeating your whole purpose of wanting to make data accessible for Web 2.0 mashups and the like.

Why won't government ever "get" it? The prerequisite question is ALWAYS, what formats? If the formats aren't truly open, then the data isn't open, either.

Re:It's all about the formats! (4, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210952)

If you look at the executive order itself:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/74042394/Managing-Government-Records-November-28-2011 [scribd.com]

you'll find that while formats aren't called out explicitly, it basically instructs the archivist to come up with a comprehensive system within a limited amount of time. It's a pretty high level set of business level requirements; basically, these business level requirements translate to, "give me the system level requirements docs and specifics within four months." I can't imagine that such a system wouldn't include the proposed formats.

Re:It's all about the formats! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211104)

LOL Seriously, you think the PREZ would be involved in deciding which FORMATS to be used??? Agreed, its an important question, but HARDLY a question that the president needs to make. Get real.

Re:It's all about the formats! (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211184)

Formats - not so much. I would like to know which "solutions provider" made generous campaign contributions though.

Re:It's all about the formats! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211612)

ISO and open formats would make sense (maybe xml for textual content), but i reckon there are a lot of software corporations out there coming up with pretty slide shows to prove their format is best. could you imagine if they chose something like flash, or worse... Microsoft SQL Server. gah!!! IBM might be a good chance though (DB2).

Re:It's all about the formats! (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211158)

You missed the most important question worth considering - in what formats will these records be maintained?

No. The most important bit is they'll be available. Conversion from one format to another isn't all that difficult, though it may be time consuming to do so, and lossy.

Just look at the output of "man -k 2" on a Linux box and see which ones of those are for converting a proprietary format to a more open format.

Re:This shouldn't cost too much. (0, Offtopic)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211138)

There are only about 1,300 federal agencies

Ok, mark this as troll...

Only a few dozen that should even be, per the Constitution...

Then, why a blanket "save everything" vs a "save nothing (e.g. age worthless junk)" edict?

Although, if you save stuff, e-copies do take less space... but can be digitally manipulated... so I say don't bother keeping it, if it isn't real... (you know, the old, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right")

Agreed, sad it won't happen... unless Obama is... (4, Insightful)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211520)

Let's be blunt... this is 2011. The task he set forth will be tied up in bureaucracy for a minimum of a year. There will be arguments such as "Where will we get the budget to do this?" and there will be arguments like "Who will do it?" and such. Even if the program gets started, the company who will provide the obviously custom system will underbid the others involved to land the contract and once the contract itself IS started, then whoever won the contract will then stop part way and claim "The agency misinformed us as to how much would need to be digitized and therefore we need more money." at which time the project will be placed on hold pending an audit to which time it will be made known that there was corruption involved in choosing the given vendor.

Agencies who have thus far opted to NOT digitize their records have done so for many reasons. And even though they're being forced to digitize now, they'll find many different methods of making the process cost substantially more than it should have and drag the process out over extended periods. Let us not forget that most of these documents can only be handled by certain staff with high enough clearance given their confidential nature. If the expose writers are to be trusted, there are entire rooms of records of paper where only one highly trusted person is allowed to enter.

Let us also point out that many of these records have been written in cursive which unlike block is a screaming nightmare to handle automatically. That means that the people who hold the clearance to view the records will need to manually enter these records themselves. There will be issues of encrypting the records so that only certain individuals will have access to them. While Obama would like to make it so that there could be some central database per organization, I'd imagine that there will be many individual, sealed networks to guarantee security.

With all these issues, let's be blunt...

1) The agencies will fight it... outright AND through bureaucratic means.
2) The agencies will say "Sure... we did it" and since many of the records are highly classified, no one can actually contradict the statement... so it most likely won't happen. When a given record is asked for they'll claim "oh...we must have missed that box"
3) It will take decades to complete as there are rooms of records where only a single individual is likely to have access and I'm guessing their typing speed isn't 100wpm.
4) Obama is on his way out. Even if he survives this coming election by some miracle (he sucks as much as the next guy, but people know he sucks and are more likely to trust someone else with less of a known suckage) by the time the project is likely to start, it's almost certain whoever takes over will pull the funds from that budget within hours of getting into office.
5) For data security sake, the agencies will most likely have to design the systems themselves using whatever crap engineers they manage to find with high enough clearance that's willing to actually code document management systems. And truthfully... this isn't a TV show... if the agencies have "Super Hackers" on staff, they're probably just as lame as the self promoting idiots you find everywhere else.

So, I'm willing to say... this will cost a tremendous amount to talk about... but will go nowhere. Sad :(

"Web 2.0 capabilities" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210488)

So these systems will encourage the general populous to give them all their personal info (i.e. more than the government already has) in return for free use of some service?

Re:"Web 2.0 capabilities" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210822)

You're a fucking idiot.

Re:"Web 2.0 capabilities" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210938)

What do you think Facebook has become?

Re:"Web 2.0 capabilities" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210890)

So these systems will encourage the general populous to give them all their personal info (i.e. more than the government already has) in return for free use of some service?

Exactly, except it won't be free because it's your tax dollars.
They will however: store all your data for you in "the cloud" so it can be hacked by the cyber-terrorists which will prompt an all out internet war creating more jobs for patriotic americans such as yourself.

Unit Of Measurement (5, Funny)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210490)

So, how many Library of Congress equivalents worth of material are they intending to scan??

Re:Unit Of Measurement (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210526)

At least 1.

Re:Unit Of Measurement (1)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211090)

Brings up a great point -- why not have the Library of Congress manage it.

The LoC is very good at managing digital content -- and making it searchable/available through partnerships with open source projects like the Univ of Michigan's Hathi Trust project:

http://www.implu.com/federal_contracts/listing/LC-HathiTrust [implu.com]

Could the National Archives and Records Administration outsource this project to the LoC?

Re:Unit Of Measurement (2)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211454)

So, NARAs problem is that there really are no standards, as of yet, for truly archival data storage mechanisms. For NARA to go purely digital, it has to be able to guarantee PERMANENT availability and accessibility of records. That's not, as has been discussed here before in other contexts, a trivial matter.

Re:Unit Of Measurement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211254)

Just think of all the government work this can create. Perhaps it can save the US economy and give the laid-off postal workers something to do.

seriously, how hard is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210492)

Slashdot community, why is this so hard? I've worked for several organisations, all have failed to impliment a simple electronic document store. Nothing fancy, just a database of scanned forms in pdf format and the like. Has anyone worked at this sort of field? Is there some complication I don't understand?

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (1)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210682)

The company I work for has successfully implemented many such systems based on the HP TRIM software (previously Tower software), which seems to do a pretty good job for both paper and electronic records keeping. It doesn't require any custom code to do most things an organisation wants out of the box, which seems to be a key point in its success.

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (5, Interesting)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210722)

Is there some complication I don't understand?

Yes. More than one.

Nothing fancy, just a database of scanned forms in pdf format and the like.

There's the first problem. It's never simple.

First issue - if you're going to put documents in, you're going to want to get them out. How do you search for them? You're going to want to define the metadata, and that's a headache. Got lawyers? They'll want client and matter. But those fields are just about meaningless to anyone else. How do you resolve the incompatibility? Do you use different forms for different groups of users? How will the engineering department find the subpoena papers that the lawyers filed?

What fields are globally useful? Are they so generic that any search will retrieve hundreds of documents? Conversely, are they so specific as to make your metadata field selections horribly long and therefore ambiguous? (Free text metadata? Let's not go there.)

Remember that you've got to fill in that metadata any time you add a document. What's the balance between useful and annoying? Too many fields and nobody will want to fill it in. Too few, and you won't be able to find anything.

That's for new documents. When you first implement a DMS, you have a truckload of documents to be imported. You're not going to do it manually, you're going to use an auto-import. But how do you define the metadata for all those millions of documents you're importing? What if you have client/matter, for instance? Hopefully they're all already sorted, and you can use something like Kofax Capture, a seriously powerful and fast scanner, and separator sheets on which you can do forms recognition to define the metadata fields. But there's a lot of work involved up front to get that import working properly.

Don't forget the OCR. Hopefully all your paper documents are clean and will OCR nicely, so you can do full text indexing.

Security. Better get that set up right. Profile level security? It's more secure, but people will complain that they don't know if a document is there and they just need to request access because profile level security means if you don't have permissions to access a document it won't even show up in your search results. Groups. And by the way, remember to define the permissions on all those millions of documents you're importing.

Version control. How do you control check in and check out? Do you control check in and check out, or just audit it?

I've only just scratched the surface of a document management system. Then there's records management. You'll want to make sure your system is DoD 5015.2 compliant. Setting up the retention schedules...hopefully you've got a records retention policy already, otherwise that's months worth of work to define those policies and ensure you comply with all regulatory requirements while still balancing your need to purge/archive old records.

How does something even become a record? Hopefully you've already got knowledgeable librarians (yes, that's what they're called), and you just need to train them on your new RM system.

Are all your boxes already barcoded? Your RM system should be able to register where a record is - building, shelf, box.

You're probably getting the idea. The technology is easy. The processes are complicated, and they get exponentially more complicated as the size of your client base grows.

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (4, Interesting)

Capt. Skinny (969540) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211032)

Free text metadata? Let's not go there.

Google and it's users seem to be doing a pretty good job of utilizing free text to locate documents.

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211142)

Very different problem space. Google doesn't need to have a high precision score in its results. A DM system, on the other hand, needs to have really good precision because its corpus will contain thousands of very similar documents. Content searching isn't going to work very well there - you need specific metadata (e.g. delimit by date of filing with the federal agency).

* If you want to get technical, your tf.idf score is going to be well nigh useless in this case. It's about precision, not so much recall.

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (2, Interesting)

Capt. Skinny (969540) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211000)

Why is it hard? Too many people have influence in the process. Put one person in charge who will (1) actively be involved in the project and (2) have final say on decisions. No committees, no one-off directives from politicians or bosses who don't know the day-to-day details, no approval process. Just one guy calling the shots. A lot of people will be disappointed because it doesn't do X, Y or Z, or because it uses platform P instead of platform Q, but the project will be completed and will serve its purpose.

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211388)

There's no off-the-shelf software I've seen that makes document search and retrieval easy. Even for pictures. Sure, there is software that will do it, but it's usually silly or clumsy.

It's sad, though, that the federal government can't hire people to do a job right.

Re:seriously, how hard is this? (3, Informative)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211448)

or just expensive.

I used to work for a DMS software company at the corporate level and while the systems are on everything from elementary schools to health care providers to governments, the retrieval is pretty damn nice IF the system is set up properly. A properly set up system for a small pizzashop takes an hour or 2, a gov agency could take weeks or months to perfect. But the user side of things was a breeze.

How Can The US Construct a Big Brother Database (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210496)

When all the records are locked in 8x11 filing cabinets, sealed in Manila envelopes?

And the FOIA headache!

Destroying those records is hard, and some turn up - years after they were declared not to exist!

Re:How Can The US Construct a Big Brother Database (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210530)

When all the records are locked in 8x11 filing cabinets, sealed in Manila envelopes?

And the FOIA headache!

Destroying those records is hard, and some turn up - years after they were declared not to exist!

This is a logistical nightmare. It would be cheaper to assign a Secret Service agent to guard every file! Also, electronic filing is not as good as paper, unless you back it up many times and take it all offline.

Re:How Can The US Construct a Big Brother Database (1)

rhizome (115711) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210940)

They don't even want the garbagemen to know how much they're shredding.

I'd say once Lockheed can actually implement this, you'll start seeing "now that we don't have to worry about paper records anymore" retention laws flowing through with YEAs.

Re:How Can The US Construct a Big Brother Database (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211066)

On one hand you've got images of the stasi shredding everything at headquarters as fast as they can... On the other, they never got hacked.

I feel I should elaborate but I can't put it in words right now, so hopefully you get my drift.

So Palantir can work better? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210510)

Re:So Palantir can work better? (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210668)

Not only, but so that all records can be updated in real time in case of need. Remember all those movies from Men in Black to Enamy of Amurrika? Now they are one implementation away ;)

Congressional Record (2)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210520)

I'd like to see 220 years of Congressional debates in digital form.

the fix is in (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210534)

From a foreigner with an obviously fake birth certificate, digitizing all data will make it even more difficult to authenticate critical records. This is from someone so arrogant, that wrongfully believes our cyber-systems secure. This is how governments control the masses in "1984".

Re:the fix is in (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210634)

Trollish troll is trollin'.

Re:the fix is in (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211206)

This is how governments control the masses in "1984".

So your saying this project is putting a camera in everyone's bedroom and tying rats to their faces? Fear and omnipresence was how the fictional government controled the masses in 1984, the masses knew the official history was manafactured bullshit in much the same way as people today know that Fox is a right-wing bullshit factory.

And he will receive (1)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210540)

(the number of federal agencies)-odd number of completely incompatible digital records systems proposals.

Distributed object stores (2)

inKubus (199753) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210546)

This is actually the perfect place to incubate distributed object stores (e.g. Hadoop on one end, something like Zimbra on the other). One namespace .gov, with sub-namespaces. With a CMIS interface. Anyone see VMWare Project Octopus yet? Well, take that times 10,000 and you have a pretty nice records management system, platform independent. There's also Alfresco [alfresco.com] which is using the JCR spec which I believe can be moved to some type of distributed backend. But it implements CMIS, has a DoD spec records management system.. So the general spec would be a CMIS framework, each department/branch/whatever makes available a service for document retrieval, central .gov listing of the services, basically what Amazon does for literally everything it does. Do not compromise, executive order Jeff Bezos style, everything is a service with a public interface. I think it is possible, but it would take a lot of just plain buying in and our government (the bureaucratic, non-political side) has gotten really really good at dragging their feet and doing nothing. The cuts are coming though, and they will have to improve efficiency just like we all have in the private sector. Of course Defense is the worst, but education can use some work as well.

since President Truman's administration (0, Flamebait)

swell (195815) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210562)

Now I am truly shocked- no paper records before Truman admin?!!?

No wonder Americans are so ignorant of the past.

Re:since President Truman's administration (3, Funny)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210690)

Remember, this was when Communism tried to invade America, and so to counter it the need for a comprehensive system of records for everyone arose.

Ye$! (0)

Chewbacon (797801) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210580)

Let's spend some more cash. Balance my fuckin' budget, B!

Re:Ye$! (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210602)

Because, you know, having to do paper record archive searches is so much cheaper than going digital. That's why all the big corporations insist that all records be stored in triplicate in properly filing cabinits... oh... wait...

Re:Ye$! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210660)

By *definition* a corporation is more efficient than the dumbass government. They do it CORRECTLY, the government (particularly under NObama) will just fuck it up and raise our taxes another 20%.

Re:Ye$! (4, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210686)

So, you condemn Obama for things he doesn't do (e.g., reduce costs), then condemn him for doing things (e.g., reducing costs).

Gotcha.

Re:Ye$! (1)

Chewbacon (797801) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210704)

I think there's better places to start. Elect to stop spending money on something, rather than spend money to save it an indefinite amount of time down the road.

Re:Ye$! (3, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210734)

Yeah - as noted, the man can't win. Ask any corporate bean counter about the cost savings (that is, stopping spending money) by going digital.

Also - remember - he's the President. He doesn't make the budget. (That's tied up in the Super Committee.) And unlike the previous President, he hasn't been ruling by fiat, executive order and signing statement.

You've been smoking the hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211096)

You've really been smoking the hope, huh?

Ask any corporate bean counter about the cost savings (that is, stopping spending money) by going digital.

Here's the thing: the government? It's already all-digital in the places that make sense. Also, you apparently missed the "with Web 2.0 capabilities" bit in the fucking summary, which is a buzzword meaning "giant waste of money." But, hey, it's /., the summary is probably a bit off, right?

plans for improving or maintaining its records management program, particularly with respect to managing electronic records, including email and social media, deploying cloud-based services or storage solutions

Oh, so not so much. That's from the order itself, mind you!

No, this is an order that's going to waste a ton of money to not accomplish anything. The government already uses electronic records where it makes sense. Where it doesn't, they don't.

This tries to force government agencies to move "to the cloud" by executive fiat. It's a recipe for disaster and government waste.

And unlike the previous President, he hasn't been ruling by fiat, executive order and signing statement.

Yeah, not so much [coherentbabble.com] , actually [usatoday.com] .

Re:You've been smoking the hope (5, Informative)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211160)

Actually, I went and read the executive order here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/74042394/Managing-Government-Records-November-28-2011 [scribd.com]

which itself says nothing about Web 2.0 itself. Nor about moving to the cloud. The requirements laid out there are business level, and basically translate to the following: "You have 120 days to come up with system level requirements to move our data from hard copy to soft copy."

With this said, the section from the order that you're quoting is 2-b-i. It refers to the need to have a unified solution for archiving all existing electronic communication. Would you prefer that every department and agency have its own? And here I thought you might be in favor of cutting costs and efficiency.

Finally, your link shows that Obama has issued 17 signing statements in 3 years. That's about 6 per year. Bush issued 161 over 8 years. That's 20 per year. The number of executive orders is similar. And honestly, the Democrats in congress didn't play the cloture games that the Republicans play now. They made a huge stink about the ONE appointment that the Democrats tried to block (remember the chants of "up ur down! up ur down!"). Now, the Republicans won't let a damn thing to the floor of the Senate for a vote that doesn't explicitly further their causes. In other words, false equivalance fail.

Re:You've been smoking the hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211240)

So, basically, you're agreeing with the AC about Obama being the reincarnation of Bush re: ruling by fiat, and then changing the subject to Obama's ineffectiveness when it comes to dealing with Congress as if that some how makes him better than Bush. Bush and Obama both suck, but your extreme eagerness in comparing the two (and bizarrely seeing Obama as the *better* of the two) just shows you as a partisan hack. Wow, one turd floats better than the other! Hurray team blue!

This order by Obama is like using a bandaid on your scraped toe when you're femoral artery is cut. The best that can be said about it is it probably won't make anything worse.

Re:You've been smoking the hope (4, Interesting)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211300)

Let's see. A difference of an order of magnitude in number of signing statements. The difference between putting the war costs in the budget - and insisting that they all be by special appropriation or would veto. The difference between starting multiple wars of occupation without a declaration and not. The difference between following the law as created by congress and accepting what congress passed (or didn't as law).

Bush was effective towards his goals. Because Obama doesn't play Bush's games, but the Republicans no longer play be the rules, Obama is not effective. That's part of my point.

No, I'm by no means happy with what Obama has (and hasn't) accomplished. But I'm sick to death of the Republicans and their Rovian games and of the charred earth policy of passing nothing that will help the country (see also abuse of cloture) and blaming Obama. The Republicans declared in 2008 that they had exactly one goal: to make sure that Obama failed. And everything that they've done during these years of crisis has been aligned with that goal, while America rots.

Finally, if you've something to say, say it for yourself as opposed to trying to spin what I'm saying into the opposite. You aren't very good at it.

Re:You've been smoking the hope (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211534)

The republicans are doing exactly what I voted them in to do. "block stupidity" and they are doing a fine job of it.

Re:Ye$! (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210712)

No, he condemns Obama for being black and a Democratic president, both unforgivable sins, and together they make him the anti-Christ.

Re:Ye$! (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210866)

Right, because all of Slashdot knows the anti-Christ will be a white Republican.

Re:Ye$! (But not so much in the real world) (2)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211544)

Let's list some real world examples of "efficient" corporate behavior.

Enron

Lehman Bros.

BP Gulf Oil Spill

Exxon Valdez

Fukushima

Bhopal (Union Carbide)

AIG

WorldCom

Washington Mutual

General Motors

CIT Group

Not to mention all the "too big to fail" financial companies that got bailed out on the backs of the taxpayers. It was just revealed this week that the amount of assets back up by the US Treasury was about 77 Trillion $US.

Efficient Business

PS. You're a fucking racist slug.

Inevitable Release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210586)

I would think that after the wikileaks debacle the government would have learned that you are at higher risk of losing control of digitized records than physical ones. There's a corollary to Murphy's law here. Digital records, given enough time, can and will become public.

Re:Inevitable Release (4, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210694)

You say it like this is a bad thing. What has the downside of Wikileaks been so far?

Lockheed Martin (5, Insightful)

dg41 (743918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210592)

Looking at the NARA article, as soon as I saw that some big IT contract was given to Lockheed Martin I saw all I needed to know about this initiative.

New Republican candidate talking point: (4, Funny)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210622)

We must save our children's heritage. President Obama obviously hates America and it's legacy, otherwise, why would he be trying to destroy all the paper records? Undoubtedly, he'll claim that his long form birth certificate was destroyed during the digitization effort. It's obviously an Islamic socialist fascist communist ACORN black panther George Soros funded plot of some sort. Also.

POLITICALLY INCORRECT!!!111! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210878)

Don't you realize making fun of Republicans around here is Politically Incorrect and will cause offense and hurt feelings?

Re:New Republican candidate talking point: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210930)

It's the Michael Moore Chicago machine politics apologizing for the United States of America "in all 57 states".

Archaeology (3, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210628)

In 1000 years or more, they'll have no idea what we were up to at all. At lease some paper records have a chance of surviving.

Re:Archaeology (2)

Grave (8234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210808)

In a thousand years, if archaeologists cannot gather sufficient data from other observations besides paper records, then it really wasn't that important anyway.

Re:Archaeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210880)

Everyone wants their legacy to survive... I don't. Once the people who knew me personally are gone, I hope nothing of me remains. The future needn't care about my shit. I don't care about some random nerd from 1011.

Re:Archaeology (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210944)

And hence you are repeating his or her follies!

Re:Archaeology (1)

AgNO3 (878843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211010)

You are so right. Homer's works didn't help solve anything. Hieroglyphics didn't help use out at all. Cave paintings that where used to record historical events did nothing to help ups understand. Yup writing and graphical representations have done nothing to help the present understand the past what so ever.

Re:Archaeology (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210956)

In 1000 years or more, they'll have no idea what we were up to at all. At lease some paper records have a chance of surviving.

I wouldn't worry that much... think of it... USofA has some pretty extraordinary archaeologists: Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, Rick O'Connell, Benjamin Gates [wikipedia.org] ... should I continue?

Re:Archaeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211406)

Hmmm, I believe ms Croft is actually British.

Re:Archaeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211026)

In 1000 years or more, they'll have no idea what we were up to at all.

Oh, noooes! Not only that we don't have a clue right now what we are up to, but even our descendants won't ...

Re:Archaeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211864)

They will be more confused when the electronic records DO survive 1000 years. If they do, chances are that they will be floating around on "futurenet 2.0", freely available for everyone. Problem will be that there will be many different versions, all tampered with a long time ago by someone to rewrite history to their advantage.

That is also the problem with purely electronic archives. It is too easy to alter them without leaving traces. Especially for the owner of the archive who may have other priorities then the people whose data is in it.

George Orwell had it wrong (1)

paper tape (724398) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210638)

While there is a certain amount of (justified) paranoia that the government would use digitizing records as an opportunity to engage in revisionist history, I have to say that despite a desire to do so, the odds are against the government being able to pull it off.

In order for something like 1984's Ministry of Truth to function, the government would have to be far, far more competent and efficient than is ever to be likely.

Re:George Orwell had it wrong (1)

Capt. Skinny (969540) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211074)

So, we're relying on security through obscurity?

Re:George Orwell had it wrong (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211100)

Thats why they can hand it over to the private sector. What the US gov cannot not collect, the private sector can share and build on.
What the private sector cannot link over time, the US gov can do, medical, other govs.
Any laws that stop the US gov, use private contractors or friendly govs outside the US e.g. Canada, UK.
Databases are now very efficient, data entry is in place in most states in a shareable form.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Awareness_Office [wikipedia.org] showed the vision before it was lost into other new projects.

I hate to say it... (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210648)

Why not just pay Google to do it, the have the infrastructure experience and coding talent.

Re:I hate to say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210850)

And have even DONE several projects like it...

But being a gov project it will be given to one of their existing big money guys....

ALL paper documents? (2, Insightful)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210676)

Does that include the Declaration of Independence? I suppose it would be much easier to change in digital form...

Re:ALL paper documents? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210716)

You mean the constitution?
Or do you think they'll want to rejoin the British empire?

Re:ALL paper documents? (2)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210794)

do you think they'll want to rejoin the British empire?

That wouldn't be all bad. We'd at least be able to pawn off our debt on someone else.

Re:ALL paper documents? (1, Insightful)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210998)

The Declaration of Independence has no legal standing under the US Constitution (and hence US laws in general). For some reason conservatives cannot fit that idea into their heads.

Re:ALL paper documents? (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211020)

And yet that comment gets rec'ced up as being "insightful".

Even more ironically, it's the same folks who love to talk about "life, liberty and the persuit of happiness" the most that seem to forget the bit about the next clause, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men" more often than not.

But then, and speaking of editing the Declaration of Independence, Texas did drop Jefferson from its textbooks:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html [nytimes.com]

David A. Powner??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210720)

seriously? the guy who signed the report is mr powner.
is this some sort of 4chan joke?

Here we go... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210728)

Not going to work. Half these agencies probably have no idea how to accomplish this. Managers will bring in consultants etc... and have no real idea of what needs to be accomplished. Designs will be worked up and constantly revised, no work will actually get done, because no one who has any clue about how to accomplish this will be on the payroll for this project. Requirement creep will set in, more useless people will be thrown at the project, deadlines will be missed by months, then years, budgets will be exceeded by millions, and 5 years from now we will have nothing to show for it...Great idea though.

Buffoon Obama has no Money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210782)

Yea like ... where is the money to pay for this?

I wish Michele could put an old fashion Laundry Line Clip on her nose and ... Finally ... suck off Obama for Christ's sake.

Michele ... Look ... Yes you married a sex addict. Yes ... he happens to be the President of the USA that EVERYBODY hates.

Michele ... think of your daughters. If you do not do the ... "dirty"... on Obama's pinis ... he will .... oh ...Oh ...OHHHHH.

Machele ... Obama has already done the ... "Dirty" ... with his i.e. your daughters.

Oh well.

Re:Buffoon Obama has no Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210970)

Buffoon Obama has no Money

Because George W. Bush and the Republicans didn't leave him any.

Re:Buffoon Obama has no Money (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211028)

Two wars on credit combined with high end tax cuts do tend to drain the coffers with a quickness.

Private Industry Can Do This Better (3, Interesting)

laing (303349) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210834)

Why not outsource the whole task to somebody like Iron Mountain? They could get it done quickly and economically. It might even create a few jobs.

Re:Private Industry Can Do This Better (3, Interesting)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210926)

It was given out in a contract, so you are already getting your wish.

Though I think we could save money by having the government do something itself instead of having to pay for Lockheed's profit and overhead.

Just send them to WIKILEAKS... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210934)

they'll do all the work for free!

p.s. WHERE is all that imaging going to be stored with the shortage of hard drives?
Oh, right, the cloud, it's trustworthy.

They're between a rock and a hard drive.

Will the file formats be publicly documented? (4, Insightful)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210958)

This would be a good time to write your congresscritter to point out the problems with undocumented file formats as well as Apis and network protocols.

There are plenty of formats that could be used that are open and vendor neutral.

If congress doesn't require that in it's funding authorization, many of our public records will be stored as word dos or in ms SQL databases.

Really, Obama? Really? (-1, Troll)

tehlinux (896034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210984)

I predict that this is going to make things easier for wikileaks.

NARA (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211018)

IIRC, NARA didn't end the effort, it just stopped further development because it considered it complete.

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211178)

Web 2.0?

Holy buzzwords batman. What does that have to do with data records?

Why do government records need any web functionality at all? Do they WANT to be hacked?

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211238)

The citizens demand the right crowdsource legislative responses to LOLcats KTHXBYE.

Dunder Mifflin (2)

Temujin_12 (832986) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211234)

Dunder Mifflin is gonna be pissed...

"I want a plan in four months" (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211346)

"And I want it to be implemented in less than four years. Then we can change all government records to show that presidents can have four terms in office. Then we'll change it to four decades. I call it my 4-4-4-4 plan. Get out your little red kindles, children. We're going to read about democracy."

In the Archival Trenches... (5, Informative)

jlaprise1 (1042514) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211488)

As a professional historian who has worked in the National Archives in College Park, MD and at four different presidential libraries, which incidentally are also managed by NARA, I need to interject that this is an immense costly but valuable project.

Remember "the warehouse" from the Indiana Jones movies? NARA is a little like that in terms of size but are better organized. Aisle upon aisle, shelf upon shelf, row upon row, room upon room, floor upon floor, building upon building of neatly indexed banker's boxes with labelled folders of documents. The labels may have been checked by the archivists at NARA, but they may also simply be the labels affixed to the records by the source federal agency. The individual documents in folders are almost never labelled. In the course of my work, I gathered 30k digital pictures of documents over the course of two months. The acquisition process sounds deceptively easy. Look in the index, find key words and request boxes from the archivist. Then you look through folders to locate individual documents. In point of fact, I probably visually scanned 3M pages to see if they were "interesting" and photo worthy for future research, usually taking only a few seconds per page to make a snap judgement. My decisions on which boxes of documents to request were far more time consuming. What is the right keyword for talking about computers in government in 1970? If you said "information automation" then you would be right. A few presidential (Ford especially) libraries have updated electronic files for indexing which is a huge advantage.

On my trips to the archives, it was interesting to see both professionals and amateurs using a range of technologies. I saw really old school researchers using 3x5 note cards and taking notes on legal pads. They sometimes supplemented their work by photocopying really important documents at $.75/copy. Some researchers avoided this cost by using flat bed scanners which they carried in with them. Still other researchers brought in high end digital cameras and tripods. I used a digital camera freehanded. All of these people still need to find a way to actually get to physical proximity with the records. Digitalization would open up a new era in research.

On the metadata issue, most of these records already have copious amounts of metadata recorded in well-established fields that are used by NARA.

On the OCR issue, some documents have hand-written notes on them which would not be machine readable and sometimes are not human readable. It is likely that the documents will have to be digitally scanned and flagged if handwriting is detected.

Making these records available to the general public would be a huge advantage to anyone interested in government and US history. Come to think of it, in terms of size and complexity, it would be a worthy challenge for Google. U.S. government documents run back to the founding of the country and the number of documents only increases over time.

firesale! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38211580)

better improve the self-sufficiency of my command centre. lets see... lightsaber; check...

Security? (1)

David-D2 (1371217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38211860)

Open formats are great and all, but why isn't anyone asking about security?
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