House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., said this week they are concerned that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may be violating the Federal Records Act (FRA).

In a letter sent Thursday to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the House Democrats requested additional information about the FCC’s “policies on the retention and disposition of electronic communications, including email, text messages, chat and instant messages, and social media messages.”

The lawmakers are specifically concerned that the FCC may be violating the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)/National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 2012 Directive, as well as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the Administrative Procedures Act.

“Since NARA has yet to approve the FCC’s approach to records management, we are concerned that the FCC may not be managing its electronic records in accordance with Federal law and guidance, potentially thwarting the public from an understanding of the FCC’s decision-making process and how it conducts its business,” Pallone and Doyle wrote to Pai.

To assist agencies with their record keeping, NARA created Capstone, an “automated system designed to assist Federal agencies in meeting the requirements of FRA and the OMB/NARA Directive,” in 2013. However, as the senators pointed out in their letter, NARA has yet to approve the FCC’s record keeping approach.

The letter, which poses three questions, is looking for information regarding the FCC’s application to have NARA maintain its electronic record using Capstone, as well as a timeline of events regarding the application process, and all communications between the FCC and NARA regarding Capstone implementation.

“More than five years after NARA announced the creation of Capstone, most executive and independent agencies have had their applications approved or have otherwise demonstrated to NARA how they are in compliance with the OMB/NARA Directive.  The FCC has not,” Pallone and Doyle said.  “The American public should have confidence that the FCC is properly capturing and archiving its own communications.”

The legislators gave Pai until April 4 to respond to their questions.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.