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National Archives to end development of e-records project

Lucas Mearian | March 4, 2011
GAO report says costs could balloon to $1.4 billion

"By 2017, what we would have spent is pretty unclear," Lake said.

According to Lake, by the end of this year, the NARA will have spent an estimated $463 million on the ERA for development and program management costs.

"Part of the report dealt with EDM [electronic document management] practices," Lake said. "But we certainly agree with and have made corrective actions with methodologies with how to track and manage value management."

The ERA's data center is located at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, W.Va.

To date, the ERA has ingested 90.5TB of data, the vast majority of which are records from former President George W. Bush's administration. That data includes paper and electronic documents, such as e-mail traffic and interoffice memos. By the beginning of 2012, the records system is expected to balloon to 650TB of data, most of which (488TB) will come from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Lake said there is "talk" of having the ERA store high-definition video taken of congressional sessions and other government events. "At some point, when those things come in, then you're talking exponential data growth," Lake said.

Over the next year, about 50TB of classified data related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will also be ingested into the system, Lake said. Most of the rest will be taken up by congressional records. Neither the U.S. Census data nor the Iraq and Afghanistan war data will be accessible to the public, Lake said. The war data is classified, and detailed personal Census data remains sealed for 72 years.

The public also won't be getting access to a great deal of the photographic or video content through the ERA system. The public portal opened in December. "We did have some delays and difficulties along the way. So the public access piece didn't start until later," Lake said.

For example, much of the data in the ERA system has been available for a number of years and is in flat-file database form, such as agency financial records and casualty records from the Vietnam War, Lake said. Still, being able to access public county records online or historical documents such as the 1783 Treaty of Paris in its original form may intrigue some researchers.

Though the ERA has been under development since 2005, its search engine, called Vivisimo, is still in prototype mode and won't be live until the end of the year.

By the end of this year, about 30 of the largest federal government agencies, out of about 300 total, will be using the ERA. By the end of 2012, the remainder of the agencies will be required to use the ERA system to store their records. However, there's still much that needs to be done by then, such as the deployment of a system to handle classified records and a record scheduling system that would automate the transfer of both paper and electronic records over to the system.


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