Guidance on Presidential and Federal Records

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has long had a special relationship with the incoming Presidential Administration, including providing archival and records management guidance and support to the White House upon request. This relationship continues throughout the Administration, until the Presidential records are transferred into the National Archives for permanent preservation in our President Library system.


The 2016 Guidance on Presidential Records is available on This document, which NARA has prepared for every incoming administration since 2000, provides basic background information on the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, as amended, 44 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2209; how the National Archives implements the PRA; and how we assist the White House in managing its records under the PRA.

NARA has also continued to engage with Federal agencies to inform them of their records management responsibilities under the Federal Records Act (FRA).  The Office of the Chief Records Officer at the National Archives has updated its Documenting Your Public Service publication and developed other resources for agencies to ensure that records management is an integral part of agency transition plans. See the Records Express blog for more information about records management guidance for the Presidential transition.

It is important to understand the distinction between Presidential records and Federal records, which are governed by the two different laws described above:

Presidential records only apply to the President, the Vice President, their immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise or assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President. (For further details, please see the Presidential Records Act.)

Federal records apply to all “federal agencies” in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, but do not include the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Architect of the Capitol. 

The rules governing Federal and Presidential records and their preservation have not changed since the FRA and PRA were amended in 2014, but updating and sharing our guidance is one component of the support that NARA offers to both Federal agencies and the White House, especially when a new administration begins.

3 thoughts on “Guidance on Presidential and Federal Records

  1. Mr. Ferriero, are there Acts with rules governing the records of the Congress, Supreme Court and Architect since the FRA does not? Thank you.

    1. David Ferriero asked me to respond to your question. There are no laws that govern the records of Congress, the Supreme Court, or the Architect of the Capital. Instead, each of those bodies have internal rules that establish how their records are managed. Moreover, Congress and the Supreme Court perform most of their activities in public and subsequently publish and release most of their hearings, debates, proceedings, and decisions. However, the office files of each Member of Congress and each Supreme Court Justice are still considered their personal property; whereas, under the Presidential Records Act, the office files of the President and his staff became the property of the Government starting in 1981 with President Reagan.
      Gary M. Stern
      General Counsel
      National Archives and Records Administration

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