People

His Only Responsibility Is Managing Billions of Government Records

Jay Trainer is a new top executive at the National Archives.

Jay Trainer, executive for agency services at the National Archives and Records Administration.
National Journal
Courtney McBride
Aug. 15, 2013, 11:28 a.m.

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.

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