Navy begins purging enlisted service records as part of paperless plan

By LISA M. NOVAK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 13, 2010

NAPLES, Italy — In its continuing quest to go paperless, the Navy began a phased purge this month of hundreds of thousands of enlisted service records.

By the end of September, hard-copy records will be a thing of the past, according to a Navy message released this month.

Records offices throughout the service are waiting for the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tenn., to provide instructions on how to complete the monumental task without losing data. Command training teams are expected to be at bases in Europe next week, while bases in the Pacific should expect them in May, according to the Navy’s service record closeout schedule. Some bases in the U.S. have already begun the process, while others won’t start until June.

Once the transformation is complete, records will be kept within the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System — a secure Internet site that servicemembers can access via the Navy Personnel Command Web site.

The physical process required to transform paper records to electronic form is lengthy and repetitive.

Each sailor’s folder must be taken apart and separated. Some older documents that are no longer needed, such as expired enlistment contracts with personal third-party data, will be destroyed. The rest will be sorted, scanned and sent to the personnel command.

The Navy tested the system at a local records office, said B.J. Price, the head of Records Management Policy Branch at the personnel command

"We chose some senior enlisted folks with very thick records," he said.

On average, the process takes about 20 minutes per folder.

In terms of cost savings, Price said postage alone for mailing the roughly 8 million documents the command receives annually, will save the Navy $3.5 million.

The danger of losing data during the transition is "minuscule at best," according to Price. Records will not be returned to servicemembers or destroyed until the command has accepted all electronic forms.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Ronaldo Deguzman, who manages the Naples Personnel Support Detachment — which houses around 2,500 service records — describes the timetable to complete the project as "ambitious."

"Some documents are so old they may be hard to read, or they may be wrinkled or folded, which can slow down the scanning process," said Deguzman.

When the project is complete, commands will be notified and individuals will be able to pick up their service records if they want to keep them.

The rows of file cabinets, with almost 2,500 service records, that Seaman Arielle Brothers helps maintain at the Personnel Support Detachment in Naples will soon be a thing of the past once the Navy completes the task of storing all personnel records on the Internet.

from around the web