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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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SMG 3215.2





Effective Date: 03/13/2008
Change: 08/01/2013

[PDF Version]

 1. Purpose
 2. References
 3. Background
 4. Definitions
 5. Policy
 6. Responsibilities
 7. Effective Date
 8. History


The purpose of this policy is to establish Agency-wide policies and procedures for archiving web content to ensure compliance with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) guidelines and to ensure current and accurate information is available via FDA Web sites. In addition, it ensures that all agency web records are captured and maintained with sufficient information describing their context and placement. Specifically, this policy addresses:

  • Guidance for expiring and removing content from all agency Web sites.
  • Archiving expired web content and associated metadata that must be retained but may no longer be relevant or of value to the audience on the Web sites.

This policy provides guidance for web archiving only, and is a subset to the overall records management strategy for the agency.



FDA maintains the FDA Internet and Intranet to disseminate current and accurate information, communicate with stakeholders, and provide opportunities for collaboration. FDA’s Web sites can contain uniquely available informative records. Users may act or make decisions based on this information, with important consequences. The agency’s web content is largely composed of copies of records, including reports, guidelines, policies and procedures. Records copies of these records already exist in current FDA recordkeeping systems that are maintained by various program offices. Web content archiving is an overall component of the agency’s Records Management Program and the FDA Records Retention Schedule defines the retention period of both archived web content and official records.


A. Archive: Location where outdated/expired versions of content are stored.

B. Web Content: Information that is sent from a server to a browser via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) when a URL has been activated.

C. Outdated/Expired Content: Web content that has been identified as inaccurate, not current, obsolete, superseded, or rarely used. This information is not useful to users and has been determined that it should be removed from the Web sites.

D. Content Management System (CMS): An application designed to manage and publish Web site content.

E. Metadata: A description of any piece of content. It contextualizes content in order to support higher quality content and facilitates searching, currency validation, and change tracking.

F. Web Records: Information that meets the definition of an official record but is provided via an agency's web site. All Web records are considers copies of official records.

G. Official Record: All books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of the data in them.

H. Electronic Records Management System: automated system in which records are collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition. Compliant with Department of Defense (DOD) standard 5015.2 and endorsed by NARA.

I. Record Control Schedule: provide disposition instructions for each record series or system. These instructions specify when to cut off records, when eligible records are to be moved to off-site storage, when eligible temporary records must be destroyed or deleted, and when permanent records are to be transferred to the National Archives.


It is the FDA’s policy to provide current and accurate information on the Agency Web sites, by removing outdated and expired web content. According to current FDA records management requirements, information posted on FDA’s Web sites are information or access copies and should be managed in accordance with programmatic needs, while official records are maintained in an official record-keeping system in accordance with the retention periods authorized by NARA. Once an official record has been disposed of in accordance with its record schedule, all copies of the information should be disposed of. For more information regarding the FDA Record Controls Schedule, contact your Center/Office Assistant Records Liaison Officer.

Content Identified as an Official Record

FDA Records Schedules define the retention periods of Web site content, and those periods are determined based upon business needs and risks as well as historical significance of the program, policy, or activity involved. When web content is identified as an official record, it will be moved into the FDA Electronic Records Management System upon approval and a copy is published to the FDA Web sites. Referenced content (e.g., accessed via hyperlink) that resides in a different Web site will NOT be preserved as part of the web record.

Retention of Archived/Expired Content

Expiration dates for content may be changed at the discretion of the Web Content Managers designated as responsible for the specific information. Content entered into the CMS, which has exceeded its expiration date will not be published to FDA Web sites. Content reaching its expiration date will be removed from the Web site. Expired content, not identified as an official record, will be stored for one year after its expiration date as archived content in the FDA Web CMS. After one year, this content will be permanently deleted from the Web Content Management System along with related metadata.

Point in Time “Snapshot”

A copy of the FDA Intranet and Internet Web site content will be taken once at a specific point in time to retain all content (e.g.: text, images, forms, documents, links, webcasts, etc.) prior to the relaunch of the FDA.gov and FDA Intranet Web sites. This snapshot will not be accessible to the public and will only be retrieved when written requests are made by a manager to the FDA Webmaster for agency components. Public request will be handled by the FOIA request process via the FOIA office. These copies will reside in a location defined by the FDA Webmaster. These snapshots are not to provide an official record as they will only contain the information that was on the Web site on the day the snapshots will be taken. The purpose of these snapshots is to enable FDA staff to retrieve information that was posted on the intranet or internet Web sites prior to the redesign launch so that nothing is lost and so content can be retrieved in the event of a FOIA request. After one year from the date of the snapshot, it will be permanently disposed of.

Web site Management Records

For guidance of the retention of these records, consult with the FDA Records Control Schedule.


Expired content will be retained for one year from the expiration date as archived content and must be requested via the FOIA Request Process.


A. Chief Information Officer (CIO): As the FDA Chief Archivist, establishes the Agency-wide archiving policies and procedures for web content records and ensures that web content is effectively maintained.

B. Assistant Records Liaison Officer (ARLO): Provides records management guidance to web content managers; ensures that official copies of the Web content created in CMS is filed and maintained in the Electronic Records Management System throughout its life cycle in accordance with Records Control Schedules approved by NARA; and ensures that archived web content is disposed of when it reaches its disposition date.

C. FDA Records Officer: Provides records management guidance to the web site management staff, ARLOs, and web content owners/managers; develops records control schedules for archived web content and other web site related records, working with Web site managers and ensures the implementation of the policy that has been approved by NARA.

D. FDA Webmaster: Capture “snapshots” of Web sites before redesign launch. Retrieve data from snapshots when requested through FOIA Request process.

E. Web Content Owners/Managers: Conduct ongoing reviews for content on the current Web site to determine viability. Remove content through the content management system expiration date process; and implement records management requirements in coordination with appropriate Center/Office ARLOs.

F. Content Management System Administrators: Maintain archived expired content versions and metadata for a period of one year. Retrieve version history and metadata from archive repository of specific content upon FOIA request.


The effective date of this Guide is March 13, 2008. This Guide supersedes FDA Web site Guidelines, Section titled, “Document Policy” and Subsection titled, “Old Documents,” dated November 25, 2003.

8. Document History -- SMG 3215.2, Web Content Archiving Policy 

Initial03/13/2008N/aOC/OM/OIMFDA Chief Information Officer
Change08/01/20132. References, first URLOEA/WDMSJanet Elicker, OEA/WDMS