Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks reminded Pentagon leadership in an August 3 memo that records retention requirements under Federal law are a “solemn responsibility,” and that going forward all data on Defense Department (DoD) provisioned mobile devices will be captured and saved when devices are turned in by their users.
The memo follows news reports that DoD deleted text messages from devices used by some military officials following the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Other news reports have said that text message data sought by the House committee investigating the attack have gone missing, including text message data from some Secret Service personnel and Homeland Security Department leadership.
“Retention of records as required by the Federal Records Act is a solemn responsibility and legal obligation for all federal employees, civilian and military,” Hicks said in her August 3 memo addressed to senior Pentagon leadership, combatant commanders, and Defense agency and DoD field activity directors.
In particular, Hicks reminded that DoD personnel “must retain text messages that qualify as records under the Federal Records Act.”
“Under the Federal Records Act, a record is recorded information that is made or received in connection with the transaction of public business that is preserved or appropriate for preservation by an agency,” Hicks said. “This information provides evidence of government organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other official activities, or is of value to the Department.”
The Deputy Defense Secretary directed that “effective immediately, all mobile device service providers in DoD will capture and save the data resident on DoD-provisioned mobile devices when devices are turned in by users.”
She said that DoD CIO John Sherman is responsible for ensuring that guidance is implemented across the agency.
Hicks said she wants to hear back from the agency CIO and the DoD general counsel within 30 days with any further recommended actions they may have following an assessment on policies and procedures for facilitating and ensuring Federal Records Act compliance.