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Letter to Ranking Member Claire McCaskill and Sen. Tom Carper Regarding DOT’s Preservation of Electronic Records and Cooperation With Congressional Document Requests

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On July 25, 2017, we responded to a letter from Senator Claire McCaskill, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Senator Tom Carper. In their letter, the Senators requested that we review the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) processes and compliance with applicable legal standards for preserving Federal electronic records, as well as DOT’s cooperation with Congressional document requests.
In response to the Senators’ inquiries, we stated that we found no evidence that DOT officials have directed or advised agency employees to delay or withhold information to non-Chairmen of Congressional committees in the period since January 1, 2016. After sending out an email to all DOT employees, we received no reports through the OIG Hotline related to the handling of Congressional requests. In addition, we reviewed response letters to Congressional inquiries that the Department provided to us, and confirmed that they included examples of correspondence with non-Chairmen and Minority Members.
Furthermore, we did not find significant concerns regarding the Department’s record retention guidance or use of encryption-capable messaging smartphone apps. We found that DOT has issued guidance and training in compliance with Federal law and National Archives and Records Administration guidance pertaining to the retention of electronic records and the use of personal email and messaging accounts for conducting Government business. We also found no evidence that DOT officials or employees are using auto-deletion features on smartphone apps to conduct official business. We did find some evidence that employees may be using encryption-capable non-official messaging apps for official business, but most of the reports we received were limited to career employees using the apps primarily for minor logistical purposes.
Finally, we noted that in the past 10 years, our office has issued three recommendations to DOT regarding electronic records retention, all of which have been closed.