Agency heads are required to establish policies on safeguarding Federal/official records. Such safeguards include ensuring that all DoD officials and employees are made aware of their responsibilities concerning the records created or received in the conduct of Government business. Penalties may include monetary fines, imprisonment, or both. In some cases, the penalty may also include disqualification from holding any U.S. Government office. To forestall violations, it is important that DoD officials are able to distinguish between Federal records and personal files.





Federal records include recorded information regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate success as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the United States Government. Federal records cannot be removed from Government custody and are often referred to as official records.


Documentary materials is a collective term for records and non-record material that refers to all media on which information is recorded, regardless of the nature of the medium or the method or circumstances of recording. Documentary materials are “records” when they satisfy the definition above.

Records may be either originals or copies, such as file copies of outgoing correspondence or copies forwarded for action. Multiple copies of the same document and documents containing duplicative information may have record status if each serves a separate administrative purpose, and if they are kept in separate filing or record-keeping systems. Preliminary drafts and working papers are Federal records if they explain how the agency formulated and executed significant program policies, decisions, actions, or responsibilities—or, if they contain unique information such as annotations or comments.

Federal records also include electronic mail and other electronic files (e.g., word processing, spreadsheet, presentation slides, etc.) that meet the definition above. Where possible, these records should be maintained in their original electronic format. If electronically created records are maintained in a paper recordkeeping system, the information necessary for a complete record must be printed. Federal records may include electronic mail (and attachments) that originate from a personal, non-government, email account. The Federal Records Act provides twenty days for Federal employees to incorporate any Federal records that are maintained on a personal email account into a government email account.


Personal Files, Personal Papers, and Personal Records

Personal files are documentary materials, or any reasonably segregable portion thereof, of a private or nonpublic character that do not relate to, or have an effect upon, the conduct of agency business. Personal files are excluded from the definition of Federal records and are not owned by the Government. Examples of personal files include:


The last category is the most difficult to distinguish from Federal records due to its work-related content. Officials should be mindful of the requirement to maintain personal files separately from the records of the agency.


Removing Federal Records

Records that may not be removed from the control of the Federal Government for personal retention, or donated to any institution are:


The OSD Records Administrator will make determinations regarding the removal of Convenience Copies of Unclassified Records. To authorize removal, the OSD Records Administrator must find removal:


  • Does not violate confidentiality required by national security, privacy, or other interests protected by law. 

  • Is consistent with the FOIA and the Privacy Act. 


Consult your Component Records Administrator, legal counsel, or other designated official to help determine whether files are personal or Federal records.


Back to Top


Classified information is controlled by the Federal Government. Classified information is not personal property and may not be removed from the government’s control by any departing official.


Donation of declassified non-record material by Cabinet level officials is authorized to DoD-approved institutions such as the Presidential Libraries, the National Defense Library, and the Library of Congress.


More information concerning the maintenance, access, and disposition of personal files and official records may be obtained from your Component Records Management Officer or the OSD Records Administrator at OSD Records and Information Management Mailbox: whs.mc-alex.esd.mbx.records-and-declassification@mail.mil.


All classified material is the property of the U.S. Government. Classified documents must be secured and retained in government files. Any classified information or government equipment located at the official’s home (granted through previous authority) must be returned to the DoD in order to secure this information or equipment. The classified material must be returned to the office from which it was removed. The return of any equipment, such as a safe, provided to the official for the storage of classified information in his/her private residence, should be coordinated with the organization that originally provided or delivered it to the private residence.

Prior to completing employment you must receive a security debriefing from your component security manager and acknowledge the debriefing on the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (SF-312). By completing the Security Debriefing you acknowledge:

Refusal to execute and acknowledge the Security Debriefing will be reported to your servicing organization and recorded in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System. Refusal to complete the Security Debriefing is an element of “Personal Conduct,” an adjudicative factor for access to classified information, and could prevent or delay granting a security clearance to you in the future. Some foreign travel limitations may be applicable for varying periods of time, depending upon the nature of the clearance/access held by the individual being debriefed.


All records and documents in your possession that may be related to an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) claim of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, reasonable accommodation, retaliation, etc., whether you are named as a responsible management official or you are a potential witness must be preserved until all appeals and civil actions have been exhausted. Those records must remain with the Agency and under secure storage. In the event an EEO complaint enters the formal process, all Federal employees are required to participate in an investigation or civil action if named as witnesses and are required to produce relevant documents. Since the relevant documents may contain Personally Identifiable Information, they are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (5 U.S.C. § 552a) and are not permitted to be stored in other than official containers within the Agency. They are not to be stored in one’s private residence or non-government office.

For additional guidance related to such documents contact the WHS Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs at 571-372-0832.


The DoD will disable your email account upon separation from your appointment and is not responsible for forwarding personal mail. You are responsible for making arrangements to ensure that personal mail is appropriately forwarded. After your departure, all mail received for you at your former office will be considered official, and will be opened and screened accordingly.





Contact Information: 
Telephone: 703-692-9060
E-mail: whs.pentagon.em.mbx.dod-presidential-transition-support-office@mail.mil



Back to Top