Beginning March 1, the Coast Guard will automatically start deleting emails older than 10 years from the system for all but a specified group of senior leaders.
The emails will be deleted based upon the dates they were sent or received.
It’s part of an effort to align the service with federal laws regarding retaining data and Records Information Management (RIM). Given newly available capabilities, the Coast Guard’s email system is now able to enforce records retention periods as required by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), as well as schedule appropriate archiving or removal. So, if you’re a hoarder when it comes to work emails, you may want to touch base with your unit’s designated Records Coordinator to learn what you’re allowed to keep and where you should store it. Microsoft Outlook is not an authorized record keeping system for the federal government and was never intended to be. As painful as it may be for some of us, we simply don’t own emails created on government systems and we must comply federally mandated laws that govern them.
Wait a minute, but they’re keeping some people’s emails?
Yes. The law considers emails for a certain group of senior leaders to be permanent records, so they’re required to be kept indefinitely. At the Coast Guard, there are 55 of these executives and they know who they are. They’re designated as “Capstone Officials” based on their organizational role and overall responsibility.
For the rest of the Coast Guard workforce, email and attachments are considered temporary records, and the law only allows them to have a 10-year life span.
Do I need to do anything?
If you’re a non-capstone user, no action is necessary for this change to take effect. However, you should review the COMDT (CG-611) Records Resource Center website (CAC required) for policy, guidance, training, and additional resources on RIM and records retention to align with policy on email and other digital records.
If you have a business need to retain emails or attachments beyond the 10-year period, your Records Coordinator can advise you on best practices and storage. Not sure who that is? All commands should have appointed a Records Coordinator to serve as their primary point of contact for all RIM-related matters, as outlined in COMDTINST 5212.12 (series). Commands who have not formally designated a Records Coordinator should do so now after reviewing the directive here (CAC Required).
Otherwise, after March 1, any mailbox content non-capstone users have that is older than 10 years will be permanently deleted in real-time based on the date it was sent or received. This means email and any attachments, including content in a user’s “Online Archive,” will no longer be accessible.
What should Capstone Officials do?
If you’re a Capstone Official, no action is necessary. Your email will be retained indefinitely, or at least until you no longer hold your role. You should inform COMDT (CG-611) when:
- You’re permanently relieved from your official designation, or
- When individuals are acting on your behalf for periods of 60 days or more.
That way, the appropriate record schedule will be applied.
Otherwise, all mailbox content for Capstone Officials will remain accessible. The Coast Guard will store this information up to 15 years following the member’s departure from their position and subsequently transferred to NARA for permanent retention.
The Coast Guard will announce additional polices and schedules for digital media in the future, so stay tuned.
If you have additional questions about policy on records retention schedules for electronic media, including email and attachments, or questions on unit Records Coordinators, you may submit inquiries via email to the Office of Records Information Management (COMDT CG-611) at: USCGRecordsManagement@uscg.mil.
- Implementation of Records Retention Schedules for Electronic Mail ALCOAST 393/22