The Presidential Records Act of 1978:
The Act makes clear that the President's records belong to the American public, not to the President or his advisors. The Act requires the President to: take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records.'
The Act also gives important powers and responsibilities to the National Archives and Records Administration, which is headed by the Archivist of the United States. The Archivist's primary responsibility arises at the end of a president's term of office, when he is to "assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President."'
In addition, the Archivist has limited authority over the preservation of presidential records during a President's term. Although the Act gives the President full authority over the management of records during his term, the President is required to obtain the views of the Archivist prior to disposing of any "Presidential records that no longer have administrative, historical, or evidentiary value." The Archivist does not have the authority under the Act to prevent the disposal of these records.
He may, however, consult with Congress and require the President to submit a disposal schedule to the appropriate congressional committees 60 days prior to the proposed disposal.'