Directive M-19-21: What It Is & How To Achieve Compliance



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The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and  Office of Management and Budget (OMB) set forth the government-wide policy  M-19-21 as a directive to progress how government records are managed. The deadline quickly approaches.

Read on to learn:

We've also created a thorough roadmap outlining how your agency can achieve M-19-21 compliance in 90 days. It's free and available for download below!

What is M-19-21?

M-19-21 is a memorandum issued by NARA on June 28, 2019. A  consolidation of the previous M-12-18 directive with some additional requirements, the purpose of this directive is to help the government transition fully to electronic records for increased efficiency, accuracy, and improved storage.

While the full mandate can be accessed here, some key points of M-19-21 are:

  • Federal agencies should manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format by 2019.
  • Permanent federal records AND appropriate metadata must be created, managed and maintained in electronic format by 2022.
  • Federal agencies must close their own records storage facilities and transfer any inactive, temporary paper records to a Federal Records Center or Commercial Storage Facility by 2022.
  • Federal agencies must maintain a records management program that complies with the Federal Records Act  (details in Section 1.4)
  • NARA and OMB also outline how they will assist transitioning agencies in Section 2.

Who does this impact?

M-19-21 is a government-wide initiative that applies to all federal agencies.

When is the deadline?

The deadline  for  agencies to transition their government records (and metadata) management entirely into an electronic environment is by the end of 2022. NARA will stop accepting new paper records after this time.

This is an extension to the original timeline of  December 31, 2019  – as many agencies had fallen behind.

7 Factors Critical for M-19-21 Compliance

In preparation for 2022 and then to ensure continued M-19-21 compliance thereafter, agencies should implement the following factors:

  1. A solid digitization strategy to convert all permanent records to digital format.
  2. Automated system/s to capture, categorize and securely retain electronic content and metadata.
  3. Measures to ensure integrity and preservation of electronic records throughout  entire lifecycle.
  4. Integrated management capabilities for electronic records,  regardless of storage location.
  5. Methods for quick and accurate responses to FOIA requests.
  6. Regular RM program audits to validate records management effectiveness and maintain a current records inventory.
  7. Policies and systems to prepare  for transfer of electronic records to NARA.


Infographic courtesy of AIIM.

Are you ready?

Proper systems and support are necessary to  make the records transition to fully electronic. Need support? We have mapped out a 90-day project plan to M-19-21 compliance! Free to download here:



You can also download our government information package below to learn how using a tool such as Collabspace can make the transition smooth with  auto-categorization, automated content lifecycle workflows and advanced discovery for FOI requests to  ensure your agency remains M-19-21 compliant. Our Government landing page is also open to explore. Or, contact us with any questions!


Access Government Info Kit

Curious to learn more about maximizing your agency's records management? We've got articles about implementing the Capstone Approach, or webinars of speeding up your FOIA processing time.


Tagged: Compliance, Records Management

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