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What is records management and why should I care?

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- What is records management? Information is at the center of everything an organization does including strategy management, research and development and compliance. How an organization manages that information and its records can directly affect its ability to comply with instructions and guidance, perform its mission and recover from disaster -- in other words, to operate efficiently.

What are records? Records are the evidence of what an organization does and comes in many forms to include paper, electronic messages, as well as information that reside on, desktops, personal desktop assistants, servers and document management systems. Records are also captured in an organization's various databases. Records management is how we manage that information.

But, why is records management important and why should you care? Records are information assets and hold value for an organization. Effective management of records ensures that the information needed is retrievable, authentic and accurate. Federal law mandates records maintenance and the Air Force complies with this mandate through the Air Force Records Management Program.

So, who is responsible for managing records and information? Everyone. Air Force Instruction 33-322, Records Management Program, states that records management applies to all Air Force military, civilian and contractor personnel under contract with the Department of Defense, who maintain records in their areas of responsibility. Each employee has an important role to play in protecting the future of the organization by creating, using, retrieving and disposing of records in accordance with Air Force and local guidance.

With our Unit Compliance Inspection right around the corner, records management is a hot topic these days because it's considered a critical compliance objective and will be heavily scrutinized during the inspection. Unfortunately, UCIs in many cases, are the only higher headquarters inspection records management is vulnerable to and Offutt's last UCI was conducted in 2005. Having been around this business for close to 30 years, I understand we have a tendency to be reactive rather than proactive when it comes to records management. We have our work cut out for us, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

Please take the time to contact your chief of the office of record or records custodian to find out what your specific responsibilities are and how you can assist your organization to ensure your office is ready come September.

Records management is also a program where, being a team player is critical. I always compare it to a puzzle, if one piece is missing it's not complete. So think of yourself as a piece of your office puzzle. If your piece is missing, that puzzle is just not finished.

For additional records support, call the 55th Wing Records Management Office at 294-3925.