5 FAM 440 


(CT:IM-273;   05-11-2020)
(Office of Origin:  A/GIS/IPS)


(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

These requirements apply to all electronic records systems: microcomputers; minicomputers; and mainframe computers in networks or stand-alone configurations, regardless of storage media:

(1)  Electronic data files:

(a)  Those employees who are responsible for designing electronic records systems that produce, use, or store data files, shall incorporate disposition instructions for the data into the design plan; and

(b)  System administrators must maintain adequate and current technical documentation for electronic records systems that produce, use, or store data files.  At a minimum, include:

(i)     A narrative description of the system (overview);

(ii)    A records layout that describes each field, its name, size, starting or relative position;

(iii)    A description of the form of the data (e.g., alphabetic, zoned decimal, packed decimal or numeric) or a data dictionary.  Include the equivalent information and a description of the relationship between data elements in the data bases when associated with a data base management system; and

(iv)   Any other technical information needed to read or process the records.

(2)  Electronic data bases that support administrative or housekeeping functions and contain information derived from hard copy records authorized for disposal may be deleted if the hard copy records are maintained in official files;

(3)  Data in electronic form that is not preserved in official hard copy files or supports the primary program or mission of an office, even if preserved in official hard copy files, may not be deleted or destroyed except through authorities granted as prescribed in sections h. and i. below;

(4)  Documents:

(a)  Electronic records systems that maintain the official file copies of documents shall provide a capability for the disposition of the documents.  This includes the requirements for transferring permanent records to the National Archives, when necessary;

(b)  Electronic records systems that maintain the official file copy of documents shall identify each document sufficiently to enable authorized personnel to retrieve, protect, and carry out the disposition of documents in the system.  Appropriate identifying information may include: office of origin, TAGS/Terms, subject line, addressee (if any), signatory, author, date, security classification, and authorized disposition;

(c)  Electronic records systems that maintain the official file copy of documents shall provide sufficient security to ensure document integrity;

(d)  Documents such as letters, messages, memorandums, reports, handbooks, directives, and manuals recorded on electronic media may be deleted if the hard copy record is maintained in official files; and

(e)  Documents such as letters, messages, memorandums, reports, handbooks, directives, and manuals recorded and preserved on electronic media as the official file copy shall be deleted in accordance with authorized disposition authorities for the equivalent hard copy.  If the authority does not exist, the documents in electronic form may not be deleted or destroyed except through authorities granted as prescribed in sections h. and j. below.

(5)  Spreadsheets:

(a)  Spreadsheets recorded on electronic media may be deleted when no longer needed to update or produce hard copy if the hard copy record is maintained in official files; and

(b)  Spreadsheets recorded and preserved on electronic media shall be deleted in accordance with authorized disposition authorities for the equivalent hard copy.

(6)  Electronic records are acceptable as evidence in federal courts.  Rule 803 (6), Federal Rules of Evidence, has been interpreted to include computer records.  Further under Rule 1006, summary electronic records may be provided to limit the quantity of information considered during judicial proceedings.  The courts must believe that records admitted before it are “trustworthy” that is, they must clearly and accurately relate the facts as originally presented or in summary form;

(7)  Administrators of electronic records systems shall ensure that only authorized personnel have access to electronic records;

(8)  Administrators of electronic records systems shall provide for the backup and recovery of records;

(9)  Administrators of electronic records systems shall make certain that storage media meet applicable requirements prescribed in 36 CFR 1234.10.  These requirements are also contained in FIRMR Bulletin B-1 and are discussed in the Records Management Handbook (RMH), 5 FAH-4;

(10) Retention of electronic records:

(a)  The information in electronic records systems and related documentation and indexes must be scheduled for disposition no later than one year after the implementation of the system; and

(b)  Procedures must be established for systematically backing up, copying, reformatting, and providing other necessary maintenance for the retention and usability of electronic records throughout their prescribed life cycles.

(11) Destruction of electronic records:

(a)  Electronic records may be destroyed only in accordance with a records disposition authority approved by the Archivist of the United States.  This authority is obtained through the Records and Archives Management Division (A/GIS/IPS/RA);

(b)  This process is exclusive, and records of the United States Government, including electronic records, may not be alienated or destroyed except through this process; and

(c)  Electronic records scheduled for destruction must be disposed of in a manner that ensures protection of any sensitive, proprietary or national security information.  Magnetic recording media are not to be reused if the previously recorded information can be compromised in any way.  Refer to 12 FAM for requirements regarding the security of magnetic media.

(12) All automated information systems (AIS) or facsimile machines used to process or store electronic records must comply with the security regulations contained in 12 FAM.


(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

The use of facsimile (FAX) equipment in appropriate and cost-effective circumstances is encouraged in the Department.  Facsimile transmissions have the same potential to be Federal records as any other documentary materials received in Federal offices.  The method of transmitting a document does not relieve sending or receiving offices of the responsibility for adequately and properly documenting official actions and activities and for ensuring the integrity of records.  See the RMH, 5 FAH-4, for more guidance on facsimile records.  See 5 FAM 530 for policies on FAX transmissions, including use of secure FAX equipment and using FAX equipment to send correspondence to members of Congress.

5 FAM 442.1  Facsimile Label

(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

The Records and Archives Management Division (A/GIS/IPS/RA) has designed a facsimile transmission label, to be affixed to facsimile equipment.  The label serves as a reminder to users of the responsibility to file record copies of facsimiles and to photocopy record copies of thermal paper facsimiles onto plain paper for filing.  The labels are available from A/GIS/IPS/RA.

5 FAM 442.2  FAX Transmittal Forms

(CT:IM-221;   10-25-2018)

a. OF-0041 Routing and Transmittal Slip is a Department form that is available for use in transmitting documents.  Their use is not mandatory.  These forms are available on myData.  At a minimum, the transmittal form which is used by an office, should contain the following information:

(1)  Date of transmittal;

(2)  Sending and receiving office information (symbol, name, voice & fax telephone numbers);

(3)  Subject information, including TAGS/Terms to help properly file the documents;

(4)  Any comments regarding the transmission; and

(5)  Appropriate security classification, when using a secure fax machine.

b. Transmittal cover sheets containing substantive comments are to be filed with related record material.  Those containing informal messages can be destroyed upon receipt or when no longer needed.


5 FAM 443.1  Defining Email Records

(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

a. Electronic mail (email) systems are defined as software applications used to create, receive, and transmit messages and other documents.

b. If emails and attachments are made or received in connection with the transaction of public business, they are federal records.  The three categories of email are:

(1)  Official: work-related and documents the mission/program of the office;

(2)  Official - Transitory: work-related and documents routine administrative actions that do not provide evidence of approval, concurrence, decision-making, or substantive comments; and

(3)  Personal: does not contain work-related information.  [Note that the OpenNet email marking interface also includes the categories Official-SBU and Official-Privacy/PII.  For further information about Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information, see 12 FAM 540.  For further information about Privacy and Personally Identifiable Information (PII), see 5 FAM 460.]

c.  Federal records must be preserved as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the U.S. Government.  Federal records are the property of the Department, not the individual employee.  Employees may not remove federal records from State Department custody, except in accordance with Department procedures. However, employees may request to remove copies of unclassified federal records via form DS-1904.  Employees may not destroy federal records except in accordance with the approved schedules.

5 FAM 443.2  Email Capture, Preservation and Retention

(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

a. All personnel have a legal responsibility and a business obligation to ensure documentation of official duties is captured, preserved, managed, and protected in official government systems.

b. All emails sent and received on the OpenNet and ClassNet State.gov domains (central email system) are marked using the email marking interface.  Use of the email marking interface for these state.gov accounts is mandatory.

c.  Effective January 2017, the central email system automatically captures, manages, and preserves all emails sent and received on OpenNet and ClassNet into a central archive.  Consequently, it is no longer required to print and file such emails.

d. After drafting an email and clicking the “Send” button using the central email system, the user must choose the appropriate marking (referenced in section  5 FAM 443.1), which, among other things, distinguishes official/work-related email from personal email and, as needed, the sensitivity or short-term value of work-related messages.  Special handling markings must be applied manually when using a government-issued mobile device (guidance).

e. For all emails sent and received after December 31, 2016, the Department follows the General Records Schedule (GRS) 6.1: Email Managed under a Capstone Approach:

(1)  Capstone officials are agency personnel occupying senior positions who are notified in writing of their designation.  Non-transitory, work-related email is retained by the Department for 25 years after the end of tenure and then transferred to NARA.  Such emails of capstone officials sent or received prior to December 31, 2016, must be exported electronically by the capstone official and retired via form DS-693 to the Office of Information Programs and Services (A/GIS/IPS) prior to the end of tenure. The Office of Information Programs and Services must be notified if personnel are in an acting capacity for a capstone official for longer than 60 days;

(2)  Non-capstone officials are all other Department email account users.  Unclassified non-transitory work-related email (that is, an email that is marked Official, Official-SBU, or Official-Privacy/PII) is retained for seven years and then deleted; and

(3)  It remains a non-capstone official's obligation to ensure that record e-mails, i.e. e-mails that are federal records as defined in 5 FAM 443.1 paragraph (b), sent or received prior to December 31, 2016, are appropriately preserved.  Record e-mails must be preserved outside of an official’s e-mail account pursuant to the Department’s records disposition schedules if:

(a)  The official is departing from a specific office and/or the Department; or

(b)  The official has record e-mails that are seven years old that require retention beyond seven years;

(c)  In either case, the record e-mails at issue should be saved in an accessible electronic format outside of the official’s email account in a location that is accessible to the office the records belong to, such as the relevant office’s shared drive files or folder, or appropriately retired if required by the relevant records disposition schedule.

f.  Transitory email may be subject to deletion after 12 months regardless of the user's capstone status.

g. Personal email is retained for 6 months and deleted regardless of the user's capstone status.

h. If there is a business need to retain the content of any email or any attachment greater than the aforementioned periods, then the email must be filed and retained in an appropriate, external record keeping system, such as the relevant office's shared drive files or folders.  This system must be separate from the central email system and must follow retention periods pursuant to the appropriate records disposition schedules.

5 FAM 443.3  Using Email Systems Outside of the OpenNet and ClassNet State.gov Domains (Central Email System)

(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

a. All executive directors and management officers must notify the agency records officer in the Office of Information Programs and Services (A/GIS/IPS/RA), via records@state.gov, of active or proposed custom email systems that augment the Department’s Centralized Email System.  Custom email systems must:

(1)  Support records management, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and litigation requirements, including the capability to identify, retrieve, and preserve records, attachments, and associated metadata (i.e. the subject, who sent the message, the addressees and any other recipients, and when it was sent);

(2)  Adhere to the retention policies in 5 FAM 443.2;

(3)  Preserve electronic records in a manner that ensures authenticity, reliability, integrity, usability, content preservation, and context;

(4)  Maintain records in a sustainable format that is accessible throughout their lifecycle and as technology evolves;

(5)  The system owner, information owner and system administrator defined in 12 FAM 613 are responsible for ensuring records management controls are established for the generation, collection, processing, dissemination, and disposal of federal records;

(6)  Provide for backup and recovery; and

(7)  Allow for the transfer of permanent records to A Bureau.

b. Email systems will be evaluated by A/GIS/IPS to verify that they conform with:

(1)  36 CFR 1236, Subpart B - Records Management and Preservation Considerations for Designing and Implementing Electronic Information Systems;

(2)  36 CFR 1236, Subpart C – Additional Requirements for Electronic Records;

(3)  NARA Bulletin 2015-04, Metadata Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Electronic Records; and

(4)  NARA Memorandum, Criteria for Managing Email Records in Compliance with the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18).

5 FAM 443.4  Personal Email Accounts

(CT:IM-206;   12-27-2017)

a. All personnel and contractors with official State Department email account(s) are discouraged from using a personal email account (e.g. Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, contracting company accounts) to conduct official business.

b. Personal email accounts are only to be used to conduct official business in very limited circumstances; examples include but are not limited to:

(1)  Temporary system outages; or

(2)  Times when access to Department systems is limited or restricted.

c.  When conducting government business, convenience is not an appropriate reason to utilize a personal email account in lieu of an official email account.

d. When it becomes necessary to use a personal account, an individual must:

(1)  Never transmit classified information and avoid transmitting Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information;

(2)  Copy his or her official Government email account (e.g. state.gov) during the original creation or transmission;

(3)  If the sender fails to copy his or her official Government email account during the original creation or transmission, forward a complete copy of work-related email (including any attachments) to his or her official Government email account no later than 20 days after the original creation or transmission;

(4)  For older work-related emails, immediately forward a complete copy of the work-related email (including any attachments) older than 20 days to his or her official email account; and

(5)  Delete the message from the personal account after its successful transmittal to a Government email account (e.g., state.gov).


5 FAM 444.1  Defining Electronic Messaging (eMessaging)

(CT:IM-273;   05-11-2020)

a. An electronic message is information sent or received between individuals over an electronic communications platform or device.  Electronic messages include communications sent through text messaging, chat/instant messaging, and other forms of electronic messaging applications available through social media or mobile devices, whether they reside on agency networks and devices, on personal devices, or on networks hosted by third party providers.

b. eMessages created or received while conducting official business are Federal records and must be preserved in accordance with the Federal Records Act (FRA).

5 FAM 444.2  Communications Via Non-Government Messaging Applications and Platforms

(CT:IM-273;   05-11-2020)

a. Personnel are generally prohibited from conducting official Department of State business on any eMessaging application that does not allow communications to be archived by, for example, use of an “export” feature for messages or chains of messages or copying and pasting text onto a state.gov email.  If there is no alternative source of communication and the use of such application is critical to carrying out the Department’s mission, contact the Department’s records office at records@state.gov immediately for further guidance.

b. When conducting Department business, the use of a non-official eMessaging account, application or platform (with archive and/or export functionality) is permitted under the following circumstances:

(1)  The application or platform is the only means of communication our partner is willing to use or the primary means that a group of partners is using (e.g., during a negotiation); or

(2)  Engagement is greatly enhanced by using such means of communication to carry out the Department’s mission, such as the following activities:

(a)  Performing Consular engagement with Citizen Liaison Volunteers (CLVs), local hospitals, immigration contacts, and other specialized constituencies;

(b)  Promoting upcoming events, conducting public engagements, and other public affairs and public diplomacy matters;

(c)  Communicating during emergency, contingency and continuity events (e.g., evacuations, natural disasters, staff accountability, etc.); or

(d)  Coordinating routine logistics or operations.

c.  Regardless of the circumstances, when personnel employ non-Government eMessaging applications and platforms to conduct Department business, each individual Department user must ensure that federal records are captured onto official Department systems as follows:

(1)  All federal records must be copied or forwarded from the non-Government application or platform to the individual’s own state.gov account at the time of transmission or within 20 calendar days of creation or receipt;

(2)  After successfully forwarding or copying, delete the message from the non-Government messaging application when no longer needed for continuity or reference; and

(3)  For platform-specific directions, use the following guidance document: Records Management Guidance for eMessaging.

d. NOFORN information may not be transmitted on non-Government eMessaging applications and platforms.  NOFORN is a type of SBU information that warrants a degree of protection greater than that of standard SBU information.  Therefore, employees must process and transmit SBU/NOFORN information only on a system authorized by the Department for classified information transmission, storage and processing.  See 12 FAM 545 for guidance on SBU/NOFORN.