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GAO Highlights Government Email Gaps

There are glaring gaps in how key U.S. government agencies handle and store emails, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released yesterday.

Preliminary results of GAO’s review of email records management at four agencies show that not all are meeting the challenges posed by email records,” said the report, which examined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Trade Commission , and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Lack of adequate email retention was one of the GAO’s key findings. “For about half of the senior officials, e-mail records were not being appropriately identified and preserved,” stated the report, highlighting the lack of effective “recordkeeping” systems capable of classifying emails for swift retrieval.

The government’s use of email has been in the spotlight since the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys in 2007, when White House officials came under fire for their handling and alleged deletion of emails. A judge ordered the White House last year to keep backup copies of millions of emails that were allegedly deleted, and Congress has also probed the executive branch’s email management.

This week’s GAO report, which is part of testimony to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, paints a worrying picture of email management elsewhere in Washington.

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