US Archivist Reflects on NARA's New 5-Year Strategic Plan
04/08/2014 2:43 pm
By David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
A few months ago, it was my pleasure to sign off on a document that
will guide the National Archives into a bold new future—our Strategic
Plan for 2014 to 2018.
This is not a top-secret document for a few eyes only or a mandated
report to be dropped into a manila folder in a gray file cabinet. You
can read it at http://www.archives.gov/about/plans-reports/strategic-plan/2014/nara-strategic-plan-2014-2018.pdf.
The Strategic Plan is NARA’s roadmap to the future, a 24-page
document that spells out the four – yes, just four -- simple yet dynamic
goals that we will pursue over the next five years.
To develop this plan, we talked with our customers, staff, donors,
stakeholders, and many others. I want to thank those of you who took the
time to read our draft plan and provide informed comments.
The result is an ambitious plan, which builds on the six outcomes of the transformation we have undergone in the past few years:
We will work as one NARA, not as component parts. We will be out in
front in embracing the primacy of electronic information in all our
work. We will foster a culture that results in an agency of leaders. We
will turn NARA into a great place to work by empowering our staff, our
most vital resource. We will focus on our customers and find ways to
serve their needs more effectively. And we will be an open NARA—open to
learn from others outside the government.
Some of the goals and initiatives in the new plan will not be fully
achieved during this five-year planning cycle. What is important,
however, is that the plan challenges and encourages our staff to stretch
their vision. I want them to be bold, ambitious, and versatile, ready
to try new ways and new initiatives to reach these goals:
- Make access happen. This is the essence of what we
do as the nation’s recordkeeper. We plan to make accessible all of the
born-digital records and as many of our 12 billion pages of traditional
(paper) records as we can as quickly as we can digitize
them—the most requested ones first. This is a lofty goal—a “stretch”
goal indeed—but we need to have these kinds of goals to challenge us.
- Connect with customers. We want to engage our
customers in what we do and be an example of open government. That way,
we can respond to their needs sooner and more effectively, whether it’s a
request for records, attending a workshop or exhibit at one or our
facilities, or commenting on a proposed federal regulation.
- Maximize NARA’s value to the nation. As the steward
of the nation’s records, we lead the way for Federal agencies to find
more effective and less burdensome ways of managing, preserving, and
making accessible the nation’s records. I believe this work will, in
turn, elevate the status of NARA—and the archival profession—in the
- Build our future through our people. We will
support our staff first by improving our internal communications so
everyone is fully informed by one or more of the channels we use to
communicate with staff. And we will provide opportunities for training
and education, mentoring, and cross-training so that everyone can find a
career path at NARA that will ensure we have the skills we will need in
the future and make our staff valuable assets to the agency.
This last goal is especially important. Key to the success of this
Strategic Plan is our dedicated staff of more than 3,000, located in
more than 40 facilities around the country.
The Archives’ staff is a diverse group of incredibly talented
individuals who love what they do and do it well, which is one of the
reasons I have such respect for them. People I meet in my travels often
say that the Archives has some wonderful treasures in its vaults. Our
greatest treasures, however, are the ones who go home at night—our
staff. They will ensure the success of this plan.
We’ve established our goals, some of them “stretch” goals. Whether we
reach our goals or not, what’s most important now is that we begin the
journey to reach them. Let us know how we’re doing.