What is a records schedule?

A records schedule provides mandatory instructions on how long to keep records (retention) and when they can be destroyed and/or transferred to alternate storage facilities (disposition). They are also known as records disposition schedules, records retention schedules, and records control schedules. To keep it simple, we call them "records schedules" or "schedules."

Schedules identify which records are temporary (eligible for destruction after a specific time period) and which records are permanent (transferred to NARA after a specific time period). By following the instructions in the appropriate schedule, you can:

  • Destroy/recycle records that are no longer needed in the office;
  • Retire inactive records to offsite storage; or
  • Transfer permanent records to the National Archives.

There are two types of schedules:

  • General Records Schedules (GRS)
    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which has responsibility for establishing recordkeeping requirements for federal records, issues the GRS. The GRS provides authority to destroy/recycle temporary, administrative records common to several or all federal agencies (for example, official personnel folders).

  • FAA-specific schedules
    FAA has over 75 schedules for records created and maintained by the Agency. In addition, approximately 100 of the most commonly used GRS items are used by the FAA (for example, FOIA Requests Files). While this may seem like a lot of schedules, remember that they are for the entire Agency. You will only need to deal with a limited number of them.

Why do we have to use schedules?

There are several good reasons for using the schedules:

  • It's required! According to regulations issued by NARA (36 CFR 1228.12), all federal agencies are required to have schedules for records, regardless of format, including paper, audiovisual materials, maps and drawings, publications, word processing documents, e-mail, databases, etc.
  • Removing records that are no longer needed from active office space makes it easier for you to manage the records you need.
  • Using appropriate schedules ensures records are not kept longer than needed, but also not destroyed too soon.
  • Removing or destroying records without authorization can result in criminal penalties.
What kind of information can I find in a schedule?

Briefly, the schedule describes the types of materials that are covered, how long they are to be kept, and what happens to them after they are no longer needed in the office.

Some of the other information you can find in a schedule includes: which office(s) can use it, if the covered records include any confidential information (e.g., confidential business information), if there are legal requirements that mandate creation of the records (e.g., the Clean Air Act), who has custody, and approval dates.

How do I know which schedules apply to my records?

There are three ways you can find the schedule you need:

  1. Look for yourself

    • Approved schedules are on the Web site. You can browse the schedules. Keyword searches ill be available soon by keyword.

    • Important note: Draft and development schedules cannot be used to authorize destruction of records; they must be approved by FAA and NARA first. You may, however, retire records to a Federal Records Center (FRC) or other storage facility under the provisions of a draft schedule.

  2. Contact your Records Liaison

    Your program office, region, or center has a "records liaison" or contact who can help you find the appropriate schedules and provide guidance on how they should be applied.

  3. Contact the Records Help Desk

    Contact the Records Center of Excellence for expert assistance.

If the schedule I use needs to be changed, what do I do?

First, let your records liaison know. They will work with you to make the needed changes and coordinate the approval process.

In some cases, changes can be made immediately. For example, slight changes in the description of the records or adding guidance to the Agency-wide guidance portion of the schedule can be made without going through the normal approval process.

However, new schedules and those that have major changes or changes in the retention period have to be approved by the FAA and NARA. Contact your liaison for assistance.

What if there isn't a schedule for the records I have?

If your records are unscheduled, contact your liaison to develop a new schedule. Consider any unscheduled records to be permanent until a schedule has been approved by the FAA and NARA.

Some of the schedules are identified as "media neutral." What does that mean?

The FAA allows for maintaining of some records in electronic format. If the record copy is electronic, it must be maintained in an approved electronic recordkeeping system or in an electronic information system with an approved schedule (e.g., ARC Application Database). Electronic recordkeeping systems must meet all FAA requirements. Contact your records liaison for details.

Why does it take so long to get schedules approved?

It is important to include all stakeholders and provide the opportunity to review and comment on new schedules to ensure the schedule is correct and appropriate. In addition to involved program staff, the Office of the Chief Counsel also reviews and comments on drafts. When the schedules are used by multiple offices, they are posted to the intranet for Agency-wide comment.

FAA-approved schedules are sent to NARA. NARA also has several steps to complete. As part of their review, an appraisal archivist may contact the holder or custodian of the records for clarification or additional information. Notice of the schedule is also made available for public comment when NARA publishes a notice in the Federal Register.

What can I do to help?

Assistance from the FAA staff is very important to the success of this process.

As creators and custodians of the records, you have the most knowledge about how the records are used and how long you need to use them. We need your help to:

  • Develop new schedules when they are needed;
  • Update existing schedules when work requirements change;
  • Answer questions about your records as the schedules are reviewed;
  • Follow the instructions in the schedules when they are approved.