What is the Federal Records Center (FRC)?

The National Archives and Records Administration operates a system of Federal records centers (FRCs) for the economical storage of and access to noncurrent records of the Federal Government. This government-wide program is authorized by 44 U.S.C. 2903, 2907, and 3103. Agency Headquarters offices can use the FRC located in Suitland, Maryland (also known as the Washington National Records Center), to store noncurrent, inactive, or permanent records pending their ultimate disposition in accordance with Agency Records Disposition (Control) Schedules.

Why Use The Federal Records Center?

The FRC is specifically designed and equipped to store records in an efficient and economical manner saving both space and money. Efficient storage equipment allows five times as many records to be stored per square foot of FRC space as in equivalent Agency office space. Currently it costs Federal agencies an average of $23.24 per year to store one cubic foot of records in office space (based on 1996 costs). On the other hand, the per annum cost to taxpayers for FRC storage is a mere $1.60 per cubic foot for both space and equipment, a savings of $21.64 to the government and the taxpayer.

FRC storage offers a number of benefits to Agency programs. First and foremost, FRC storage is free to the Agency, saving the cost of storing inactive records either in office space or commercial facilities. Second, by judicious use of the FRC for off-site storage, programs can free up valuable office space without having to lose access to their records. Using off-site storage also reduces indoor air pollution and avoids the cost of additional filing equipment. These advantages take on increased importance as competing priorities vie for existing office space and as offices move to newer, and often smaller, space.

Both the FRC and the National Archives are operated by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), but the two programs serve very different functions. The FRC is used to store records that Federal agencies need for current business on an infrequent basis. The National Archives is the custodian of Federal records that are no longer needed for Agency business, but that have been judged to have sufficient historical value to warrant preservation. Most of the records stored in the FRC will eventually be destroyed. Records transferred to the National Archives will be preserved permanently.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Federal Records Center

What records can I retire to the FRC?
Records can be retired to the FRC if they are no longer needed for current business or are used infrequently, and if their disposition has been documented on a NARA-approved records schedule (Standard Form 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority).
How would you define "infrequently?"
Generally, if you access records in a file drawer once a month or less, the activity is defined as "infrequent."
Is FRC storage safe?
Yes. FRC storage areas are protected from fire and other environmental problems. Access to all storage areas is limited to NARA personnel with appropriate clearances. Records stored in the FRC will not be disclosed to anyone without FAA authorization (40 CFR 1228.162). Criminal penalties for the unlawful removal, damage, or destruction of records are set forth in 18 U.S.C. 2071.
Are records ever lost by the FRC?
Yes. Recently the FRC installed an improved computerized space and location tracking system which tracks each box stored in its custody. Despite the millions of boxes stored at the FRC, there is minimal risk that a box will be lost.
Can I get records back if I need them?
Yes. You can retrieve either boxes or folders, or you can review materials at the FRC reading room in Suitland, Maryland. Normal retrieval time is 72 hours, but retrieval in 24 hours is possible if you arrange for pick up. In emergency situations, records can be retrieved in as little as 4 hours. If you have a high volume of retrievals, there is an online system, called Centers Information Processing System (CIPS), for submitting retrieval requests. If you have questions about the CIPS system, contact the Headquarters Record Officer at (202) 566-1665.
Will records be destroyed without my consent?
No. The FRC does not destroy any records without notifying the Agency in writing well in advance of the proposed destruction date. Once the Agency has been notified, you will be given an opportunity to justify extending the retention of the records if you feel that is warranted. For more on this process, see "Disposition of Records," on p. 22.
Once the records are retired to the FRC, who controls access?
You do. Records stored at the FRC cannot be accessed without your consent.
Once records are transferred to the FRC, who legally "owns" them?
You do. Although the records are in the physical custody of the FRC, the FAA retains legal custody until the time they are either destroyed or transferred to the National Archives.