Anatomy of a State Agency Records Disposition Authority (RDA)

In previous posts, we introduced Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs) and discussed how they can be updated:

This post will provide a detailed guide to the contents of each of the RDA’s three main sections.

Section I: Functional and Organizational Analysis

This section provides context for the work an agency performs and lays the groundwork for subsequent sections of the RDA.

Historical Context

This subsection includes an in-depth contextual description of the events leading to the agency’s establishment and the agency’s history, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Origin and development of the profession in the state of Alabama
  • Specific legislation establishing the agency
  • Agency composition and organization over time
  • Specific executive orders, state legislation, and/or federal legislation affecting the agency
  • Changes in the scope of the agency’s work throughout its history
  • Explanatory notes which define concepts or terms specific to the field/industry that the general public may not understand

Agency Organization

This subsection reflects provisions of the Code of Alabama 1975 and the Alabama Administrative Code. It describes the agency’s current organization, including the structure of its board or executive branch, qualifications to serve, appointment procedures, meeting procedures, and term limits. This section also provides an overview of the agency’s departmental branches.

Agency Functions and Subfunctions

The agency function designation comes from a standard set of government functions outlined in the Functional Analysis of Alabama Government.

Subfunctions reflect an agency’s primary activities, help conceptualize government operations, and organize records and workflows into defined categories. Subfunction titles are simple, concise, and originate from a controlled vocabulary. Listed below are some common subfunction titles:

  • Educating and Promoting
  • Enforcing
  • Investigating Complaints & Violations
  • Licensing/Registering
  • Promulgating Rules & Regulations
  • Providing Services

Note: The “Administering Internal Operations” subfunction is found in every RDA and includes common records that all agencies create.

Each subfunction title is followed by a thorough description, which may include legislation that assigns or authorizes the agency to engage in that subfunction and associated activities. The description provides context for Section II, which introduces the record types within each subfunction.

Section II: Records Appraisal

This section includes descriptions of all permanent records and certain temporary records. The section is divided into (i) temporary records descriptions, (ii) permanent records descriptions, and (iii) the permanent record list. Additionally, Section II may include descriptions of records which an agency no longer creates but may still possess. Records are ordered by subfunction in the same order in which they appear in Section III.  Temporary records are listed and described if they require explanation in order to be understood clearly by agency staff and State Records Commissioners.

Descriptions may include the following, if appropriate:

  • Scope of materials included in the record series
  • Format of record series

Additionally, descriptions must include the following components:

  • Description of record series
  • Retention/disposition requirement
  • For temporary records, a justification for the retention/disposition requirement
  • For permanent records, an explanation of how/why the record series is deemed historically significant, citing statute if appropriate

The “Permanent Records List” at the end of Section II includes all the permanent records created by the agency. Records are ordered by subfunction in the same order in which they appear in Section III. Asterisks indicate permanent records that the agency will maintain on-site.

Section III: Records Disposition Authority

This section provides retention periods for every record series, whether temporary or permanent. Permanent series are in ALL CAPS.

The retention requirement for each temporary record series depends on a variety of factors, including legislative and audit requirements and the record series’ foreseeable administrative and historical value. Common language for temporary record retention requirements includes:

  • Retain [x] years.
  • Retain[x] years after [y]. 
  • Retain [x] years after the end of the fiscal year in which [y].
  • Retain [x] years after audit.
  • Retain until superseded.

Section III begins with an “Explanation of Records Requirements” and ends with the “Requirement and Recommendations for Implementing the RDA,” both of which are standard to all RDAs.

Contact Us

The state agency RDA is a complex document. Please feel free to reach out to Records Management staff with any questions:

  • Sophie Law (Records Management Archivist) at 334-353-4706 or

Updated September 20, 2022

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