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Observations/Relevant Findings

Final Report to Congress on the Joint Resolution to Establish a National Policy on Permanent Papers

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Availability and use

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Procurement of blank paper

Unless otherwise authorized by the Joint Committee on Printing, Federal agencies in the Washington metropolitan area are required to procure blank papers from the U.S. Government Printing Office (44 USC 1121). Federal offices outside Washington should procure papers through the Federal Supply Service of GSA or may also purchase them from GPO. NARA Bulletin 95-7 lists papers available from these sources.

However, not all papers used for Government records are obtained through printing and procurement officials who would, as a normal policy, procure paper from GPO or GSA. Now, with the increasing availability of Government credit cards, purchase at local retail office supply stores for paper and other office products is becoming more and more common.

Most paper suppliers do not, as a common practice, label their paper products. Thus, the consumer cannot identify them as alkaline, permanent, or acidic. Therefore, when Federal employees procure paper from sources other than GPO or GSA, in most cases they do not know the degree of permanence of the paper they are procuring. The monitoring agencies propose to continue working with JCP, GSA, and paper suppliers to develop common labeling practices, and to encourage GSA to continue their marketing efforts to promote procurement of paper through GSA's Federal Supply Service.

SF-1 and decentralized printing

Sections 501 and 502, title 44, U.S.C., state that:

All printing, binding, and blank-book work for Congress, the Executive Office, the Judiciary, other than the Supreme Court of the United States, and every executive department, independent office and establishment of the Government, shall be done at the Government Printing Office...unless approved by the Joint Committee on Printing.

Since a large amount of printing service is obtained through GPO, Standard Form 1, GPO Requisition for Printing and Binding, will include blocks indicating alkaline or permanent paper requirements when next revised. Once an agency indicates permanent or alkaline paper on the printing requisition, GPO or their contractors must comply with the request. These proposed changes to the form are relatively straightforward and will be easy to implement now that agency officials are making informed choices regarding permanent and alkaline papers. However, future monitoring of Pub. L. 101-423 will be difficult, if not impossible, if agencies are permitted to determine for themselves where they will procure their printing services and their blank paper.

Use of appropriate paper in agencies

According to 44 U.S.C. 2904, 3102, and 3301 and 36 CFR 1228.12, Federal agencies shall have approved records disposition schedules covering all records. These schedules identify permanent and temporary records created by the agency. NARA statistics indicate that 3 percent to 5 percent of the records created by an agency are permanent. The majority of permanent records are created within a few distinct agency offices, usually policy-making offices. Because it is sometimes difficult at the time of creation to determine whether a document is permanent or temporary, the NARA Bulletin 95-7 recommends that permanent paper should be used routinely in offices that create a large majority of permanent records. Other offices should use alkaline papers as a normal practice. Permanent papers will last for several hundred years under normal conditions of storage and use and alkaline paper will last at least 100 years. These time frames are much longer than those associated with the longevity of acidic papers.

This recommendation may appear contrary to that made in the second report to Congress. In 1993, when the second report was written, the extreme cost differences between alkaline and permanent papers, and the limited availability of permanent papers, led the monitoring agencies to endorse the use of alkaline paper for all records as an interim step to the Government's permanent paper policy. Two years later, the situation has changed. Although the price of all papers has risen dramatically, currently the difference in price between permanent and alkaline papers has narrowed. However, this trend is not likely to continue.

This is the principal reason why the Federal community is encouraged to use alkaline papers except for those offices that create a large proportion of permanent or long-term records. NARA's Office of Records Administration will continue to work with agency records officers to assist them in identifying offices that should stock permanent papers on a routine basis.

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