Data and documents are the lifeblood of the federal government, and Jay Trainer is one of their chief caretakers. As the new executive for agency services at the National Archives and Records Administration, Trainer oversees five programs that manage billions of information sources from across all three branches of the government.
"We're dealing with agencies from the Cabinet level all the way down to very small, independent agencies," Trainer said during an interview this summer at the historic National Archives building, which houses the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. "Our staff is in daily interaction with federal agencies, either for records that they want to send to us, or if they need access to those records while they're with us, to the disposition of those records when the federal government has determined that they no longer need them."
Only a small percentage of all those documents—roughly 3 percent by Trainer's estimate—find their way into the Archives of the United States, where they're kept forever.
Trainer has literally devoted his entire career to federal record-keeping. A native of East Liverpool, Ohio, just downriver from Pittsburgh, Trainer was studying history at the University of Dayton in 1988 when he became a student trainee at the Federal Records Center in Dayton that is one of 18 facilities around the country operated by the National Archives. He never left the agency, moving to its Washington headquarters in 1991 to work in various management and budgetary positions.
In 2004, Trainer became assistant director of the Federal Records Centers program and in the course of his 25 years with the agency he has visited every one of the facilities run by the Archives, "from Boston to Seattle." In June he was named executive for agency services, overseeing the Federal Records Center, the National Declassification Center, the Information Security Oversight Office, the Office of Government Information Systems, and the Office of the Chief Records Officer.
Trainer spends most of his time at the Archives' records facility in College Park, Md., where an estimated 4 billion data sources are stored. But he also often goes to the Archives headquarters down the street from the Capitol, a visit that he never tires of making.
"When you're in this building before it's open to the public, you walk through the rotunda, and no matter how many times you do it, it's just very inspiring," he said.