House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, are pressing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to figure out a fix for the backlog of records requests at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), and suggested IT upgrades as a possible solution.
The House members made their case in an October 20 letter to Inspector General (IG) Brett Baker, requesting an evaluation of the records request backlog, and how to reduce it efficiently. They asked for answers on:
- How the backlog can be reduced;
- How to improve communications between veterans and their families about improving the backlog;
- How NARA can upgrade its IT infrastructure and digitize any necessary records to enable remote processing;
- How NARA can improve its ability to acquire and award contracts to reduce the backlog; and
- What additional resources would be needed to process outstanding records requests in a timely manner.
“Although NARA initially projected that it would clear the backlog by the end of calendar year 2022, recent updates suggest that the backlog could be resolved as soon as October 1, 2022,” wrote Rep. Maloney.
“Unfortunately, NARA’s most recent update to Congress on October 4, 2021, indicated that more than 550,000 requests are currently in the backlog and that progress to reduce the backlog was interrupted by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus,” she said.
The House members noted that NPRC has taken steps in recent months to reduce the backlog and restore service to pre-pandemic levels by partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to digitize hard-copy records requests, and by acquiring more space and hiring additional workers to safely work multiple in-person shifts per day.
“NARA must keep its workforce safe, but the agency also needs to take action to ensure our veterans do not wait years for records they require to access critical services,” Rep. Maloney said.