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The management of Senate committee records is a constant challenge, and part of our responsibility in the Secretary of the Senate's office is to provide committee staff with a clear understanding of what constitutes a permanent archival record. This volume is designed to assist you in that management challenge by describing committee functions and the records that result from performing those functions. In addition, we outline the types of information that should be preserved as permanent records of the Senate to document the development of legislation, the analysis of investigations, the performance of oversight, the evaluation of nominees, the crafting of a budget, and the analysis and evaluation of treaties.
Since this volume was last published six years ago, the explosion in technology and subsequent trend toward electronic records has changed the nature of Senate committee records. While committees still preserve large quantities of textual documents, the accumulation of electronic records has shown a dramatic increase. Consequently, we have enhanced the chapter on electronic recordkeeping to underscore its importance and to provide practical advice to records and systems administrators on the management and preservation of electronic documents. New to this edition is a list of the duties and responsibilities of the individual on your committee staff who is responsible for records and archiving.
On behalf of the Secretary's office, I want to encourage you to contact us if we may be of any assistance to you in the management of Senate committee records. Our Senate Archivist, Karen Paul, may be contacted at 224–3351 for any questions you have concerning committee archiving and for information about instructions and procedures. She is also available to provide detailed staff briefings upon request.
We look forward to working with you as together, we continue to preserve these important records of the United States Senate.
SIGNIFICANCE OF COMMITTEE RECORDS
committee's total information resources and determines the overall level of office efficiency.
By consulting committee archives, staff should be able to determine the legislative history and intent of any particular section of a law. They only can do so if files have been deliberately arranged and maintained. Their ability to conduct an accurate investigation or to perform effective oversight will be strengthened or weakened by the quality of records management. In fact, given the increased volume of records acquired by committees and the transitory nature of electronic documentation, astute records management is critical to a well-run office.
Congressional committees have been described as the nerve ends of Congress, the gatherers of information, the sifters of alternatives, and the refiners of legislation. As such, they create and collect a wealth of documentation pertaining to the legislative process and all aspects of political, economic, and social life. They compile records that document the effectiveness of agency programs and detail the extent to which these programs carry out the intent of enacted laws. When they investigate an issue, they accumulate an array of in-depth information and develop relevant legislative proposals. They also assemble and evaluate unique information pertaining to the qualifications of presidential nominees. As Woodrow Wilson once stated, “Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.” 1
This body of information is an incomparable national resource, not only of the Senate's history and role in formulating legislation, but also of the general history of Congress and the American people. Committee records are an essential component of the Senate's institutional "memory.” Properly arranged and preserved, they contain evidence of each committee's organization and functions, furnish a complete legislative history of individual bills and laws, and serve as a rich source of reference material for topics within a committee's jurisdiction.2
THE IMPORTANCE OF RECORDS
Committee records are the property of the Senate under Senate Rule XI.2 and 44 U.S.C. $ 2118. Committee members and staff will want to establish regulations and procedures that ensure the preservation of these historically valuable materials. To achieve this goal, each committee and subcommittee office should adopt sound records management practices and require conscientious implementation on the part of all staff.
Effective records management includes the creation of well-defined textual and electronic files, timely and systematic removal of transitory records, and the identification and preservation of permanently valuable textual and electronic material. It both enriches a
Committee staff should be briefed about basic records management policy and procedures at the beginning of each Congress, before subsequent activities limit the opportunity for careful records preservation planning. If this task is left to the end of a Congress, staff will find themselves overwhelmed by its magnitude and the resulting record may be less than complete.
The briefing should cover the Senate Standing Rules (XI and XXVI.10.(a)) governing ownership and disposition of committee records. It should stress the importance of regularly and routinely managing one's records, and the value of maintaining complete records of work on significant legislation and oversight issues. Committees may wish to establish guidelines for staff who want to make copies of their files to take with them when they leave committee employment.
Effective records management is based on the early identification of permanently valuable electronic and textual files so that they may be filed separately from transitory material. In the case of electronic records, staff need to know how to properly manage and file their documents. In addition, administrative controls should be implemented to guarantee the preservation of permanently valuable information stored on computers.
Guidelines for identifying valuable files are provided in the following chapters. Briefings are available from the Senate archivist who also assists with all aspects of records disposition and transfers of material to the National Archives' Center for Legislative Archives.
Efficient management of committee records has four main objectives: • Establishing good records management policy
throughout all committee offices, including all ma
1 Walter Kravitz, "The U.S. Committee System,” The Parliamentarian LX, no. 3, (July 1979): 123.
2 Senate Report No. 1042, 96th Congress (1980), Relating to Public Access to Senate Records at the National Archives, reproduced as Exhibit 9–1.