evaluation of email records management and cybersecurity requirements.
The Federal Records Act requires appropriate management and preservation of Federal Government records, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of an agency. For the last two decades, both Department of State (Department) policy and Federal regulations have explicitly stated that emails may qualify as Federal records.
As is the case throughout the Federal Government, management weaknesses at the Department have contributed to the loss or removal of email records, particularly records created by the Office of the Secretary. These weaknesses include a limited ability to retrieve email records, inaccessibility of electronic files, failure to comply with requirements for departing employees, and a general lack of oversight.
OIG’s ability to evaluate the Office of the Secretary’s compliance with policies regarding records preservation and use of non-Departmental communications systems was, at times, hampered by these weaknesses. However, based on its review of records, questionnaires, and interviews, OIG determined that email usage and preservation practices varied across the tenures of the five most recent Secretaries and that, accordingly, compliance with statutory, regulatory, and internal requirements varied as well.