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Jana Gallatin – GovLoop’s Member of The Week

Jana, your passion for preserving and organizing historical records in Government is well known here on GovLoop. How did you come to first be interested in this mission?

I’ve always been kind of a history fan and am interested in government policy. My first brush with records management was when I was a soldier assigned to the 501st MI BN in Yongson, Korea. I was temporarily assigned to the S1 (Personnel) and drew the straw for cleaning up the file system. So I studied the Modern Army Record Keeping System (MARKS) system and methodically put everything where it belonged and ended up with a huge pile of junk that needed to be destroyed. The Commander was sufficiently impressed and I went on the road to clean up all the Battalion files before the Inspector General came. We did really well on the inspection. So that was probably the first really positive experience I had.

My degrees are in Computer Information Systems. About 15 years ago, I met Mr. Steve Matsuura, who became my government action officer for some interesting distributed modeling and simulation tasks. When Steve became disillusioned with the support he was getting for his records management testing project in 1997 or early 1998, he asked if I knew anything about records. I recalled the story above and found myself with another job. Steve is the best mentor anyone could ever imagine. When he retired in 2005, I applied for and was accepted to take his position as the government action officer.

I’m big on “malice of forethought” when planning for new technology and information systems, and I believe that the laws requiring records keeping are excellent tools to leverage some thought into the data/info/content/document/records/knowledge management processes and functions of the new technology. I believe that records management is the keystone, because records must be trustworthy.

You work for the Department of Defense. Surely, securing and archiving those records is one of their most challenging responsibilities. Is this part of the work you do at DOD or is it a major interest or concern? Why do you do it?

I don’t work directly with records, which is kind of ironic. One of my responsibilities is to provide the technical research and drafting for DoD 5015.02-STD,”Electronic Records Management Software Applications Design Criteria Standard” It’s a great opportunity to keep abreast of technology, but always with that “malice of forethought” I spoke of earlier. How are people going to access the information processed by this technology in 150 years?

I also try to help raise awareness about the record keeping laws and responsibilities of all government employees. Record keeping was decentralized and the ubiquity of desktop computers, so control over records has significantly loosened. People are not aware of their responsibilities, nor are they provided with sufficient tools to do proper record keeping if they do know what to do. We have probably lost a good chunk of a couple of decades of history. NARA may have many of the bits, but if they are not already rotted, they will likely be in a few years unless something is done to “refresh” them to current technology.

The second component of my job entails testing the solutions for compliance to the standard. This entails contriving test scenarios that will exercise the lot of requirements to ensure the proposed commercial solution provides the functionality, flexibility, and extensibility necessary to be dropped into “any” environment and be configured to meet that organization’s record keeping needs. We can’t possibly test for every contingency, but we try to cover as many as possible.

As part of the compliance testing program, my team also offers consulting for acquiring agencies. We never recommend products, but we use our testing expertise for identifying and weighting requirements, defining measurable criteria against the requirement, creating scenarios in which vendors can demonstrate their solutions, and the evaluators can collect information to determine if criteria were met. We also provide consulting to commercial vendors and in house developers to clarify requirements in the context of their implementation environments.

Finally, we do limited compliance testing for in-house or legacy solutions, to ensure that records keeping functionality is provided and it meets the requirements and intent of DoD 5015.02-STD.

Why do I do it? I was a soldier, my husband was a soldier. I have two sons that are draft age. We, as a country, ask much of our military service members. Sometimes it means giving a life, sometimes it means living out a life after taking a life, all times it is life changing. We should never forget what we asked them to do, why we asked it, how we supported them, and how they answered our call. We should Never Forget.

What kinds of resources are available that can help you fulfill these plans. Can GovLoop help?

Govloop provides a place to meet other folks with similar passions and folks, while maybe not passionate, with knowledge and experience that can raise the discussion to higher levels. It also provides a “flat sandbox.” We can all “play” together without regard to who makes how much money, what initials are behind whose name, and whether or not someone’s office has a door AND a window. Eventually my work on the standard needs to be vetted, reviewed, and approved, but it should be much more comprehensive because of discussions in Govloop. (And, having that kind of openness in the drafting process makes it just a little harder for people to push pet projects using this standard as their hammer.)

Govloop is also an example of open government. Even though it is non government sponsored, government people participate. Hopefully, that will help dispel the idea the civil servants are all fat and lazy and counting down the days to retirement. We are victims of bad government policies to ensure “oversight” as taxpayers are victims of fraud, waste, and abuse. There has to be a better way. Data.gov, Recovery.gov and open government are good starts, but places like Govloop let people see that we are citizens too and have the same concerns they do.

You were in the military in a fairly intolerant era. What made you choose to enlist?

I enlisted in late 1979 and went to integrated basic training, interrogator advanced training, and Defense Language Institute in 1980. I left the Army in 1987 just before my youngest son was born. So, while it was beginning to be more tolerant, it was confused. I once had a performance evaluation that indicted I did not let being female interfere with outstanding performance of my duties. The rater meant well and the all-male chain of command thought it was a glowing review. Culturally, we just weren’t in a place where they were able to “get it” yet.

I would like to say I enlisted out of a strong sense of patriotism. But the truth is I was going nowhere fast. The Army gave be a stable place to finish growing up. It also gave me the opportunity to travel to Korea and Europe, which gave me a clear understanding of just how special this country is. The travel also let me understand that no matter how special this country is, other countries are pretty special in the eyes of their citizens.

Can you remember the first real research project that made you choose the path you’re on?

I think that would be learning MARKS, followed by sitting on my living room floor typing BASIC instructions into a Commodore Vic 20 so I could play Asteroids.

It’s probably fair to say you’re best known to GovLoop readers for your contributions regarding accurate record-keeping and the preservation of items of official record. You’ve written a number of in-depth blogs on the subject and provided fresh views on many aspects of the major issues there. Can you give us an example of the harm that can occur because of lost records?

People die, environments are damaged or destroyed, civilizations collapse. Humans as a species don’t learn from mistakes. We don’t evolve instinct fast enough. Look at your children. They do the same stupid stuff your grandparents did as kids. (They just use better technology now). We are dependent upon recorded history, whether it is stories, block and chisel, paper, or electronic bits.

Imagine, if schematics and maintenance records to the nuclear power station’s cooling system are lost and the system fails. How much time do we have to react? (Incidentally, DOE probably has some of the best records discipline in the Fed government because of their responsibility for nuclear energy.) Records are important.

Have you faced any criticism or resistance to your interpretations or ideas in this regard?

Absolutely, but it’s all part of the conversation, and for the most part welcome. Passion doesn’t automatically give me visibility into every nook and cranny. There is much that I don’t know and people do point that out occasionally! While I certainly like getting credit for doing good things, as long as good things get done, that’s what matters. The best good is done collaboratively, I can’t do this alone! My husband puts up with my travel schedule and occasional outbursts. Sue, Susanne, Elester, Dana, and Scott are the best technical team you could want. Ron, my OSD customer and Terry and Darrel, my supervisors are the fantastic team enablers. And there are the vendors and in-house developers and records managers and policy wonks. Folks like Daryl who worked on the original report and Karen, Nancy, Ken, Arian, Don, and Mark at NARA who provide expertise and do the reviews for NARA endorsement, all work together to move the process forward.

During your years with DOD and prior to that time, did you discover anything that really surprised you?

Nothing I remember offhand. I’m hopefully cynical. Humans have incredible capacity to rise to the occasion, working together to a common goal, regardless of their individual opinions or goals. On the other hand humans can be incredibly short sighted and sometimes downright cruel.

Wait, one thing does come to mind. I worked with Steve Matsuura for probably 15 years. He is a smart, congenial, and warm human being. I knew he had a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering; he has two children, his grandchild’s name, where he was born, what vacation cruise was next…all the things you learn about someone when you work with them over a long period of time. When he retired, I was reading the program for his retirement and found that he also had several other master’s degrees including mechanical and nuclear and maybe aerospace. The man is a rocket scientist and we never knew.

Jana, Can you give us a hint of what we might expect to see from you in the future?

We are actively working on bounding Version 4 of DoD 5015.02-STD and beginning to identify sources for collaboration and research. Hopefully, we will have a public review draft out in the next 12 – 18 months. I’m hoping to do the drafting on Intellipedia, so there shouldn’t be many surprises in the public review draft.

I am also pushing to identify ways to deliver our testing more effectively. It needs to be just as robust, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to have our fat fingers on the keyboard for every single thing. Containing costs, while providing services to more people and still maintaining quality is an interesting challenge.

I’m also interested in human cognition and how people acquire and use information from their environments. I would like to apply some thinking to that and concept of flat, fluid and distributed organizations. DISA is facing a BRAC move, as are several other DoD components. Every time the government decides to physically uproot an organization, chaos ensues and work on behalf of the citizens gets short shrift. Given evolving technologies such as Google Wave, there is little reason to have geographically consolidated offices, but how to enable distributed organizations, or contributory-based compensation (piece work?) while coping with interesting risk and personnel control issues are things we should investigate.

And on a local community level, I’m trying to get my little town to use the 2.0 technologies in an effort to rapidly develop community-wide responses to threats as well as providing a mechanism for collaborative advertising and marketing of our area to visitors.

Any final comments?

I think I’ve talked your ear off. Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity. It is kind of embarrassing, but always appreciated when someone notices. When someone in a group of people like the Govloopers notice, it is a downright honor.

I think you’ll open a few hundred eyes anyway Jana. I’m glad my questions related to what you wanted to say!!!? I’m proud to know you and realize even more how important the documentation of historical records is!! Thank you for the heart you put into this interview.

Cindy Baker
GovLoop Community Leader

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A fascinating discussion. I always love Jana’s thoughts on records. Which I always thought was a dry topic until people started talking about it on GovLoop. And records are obviously important – did you hear NASA lost its copy of the broadcast of the flight to the Moon and had to get 4 copies from around the world and are restoring it based on them. Gov’t does important work and needs to make sure we retain this info for the future regardless of format.