Updated: May 1999 NATO Archives

Policy on the Retention and Disposition
of NATO Information

( Extracts )


1 This document establishes the policy on the retention and disposition of NATO information as called for in the NATO Information Management Policy (NIMP)1.

2 The Policy is supported by implementing directive(s) and by retention and disposition schedules that identify the retention periods and the permanent or temporary value of particular types of NATO Information.

3 This Policy is published by the North Atlantic Council and is authorised for public disclosure along with its supporting directives and schedules.

Scope and Application

4. This Policy applies in all NATO civil and military bodies to information, as defined in the NIMP, that they either create, receive, manage or maintain.

5. This Policy also applies to metadata associated with that information.

Principle and Objectives

6. The key objectives of the coordinated and systematic disposition of NATO information through the related processes of appraisal, retention and archiving or destruction are to:

a) to support NATO’s missions, the effective use of resources, information sharing and public understanding of the Alliance’s goals and achievements;
b) assign either permanent or temporary value to all information;
c) assign retention periods based on identified needs and obligations; and
d) to transfer to the NATO Archives or to destroy information at the end of the retention periods and according to its assigned value.


7. It is the policy of NATO to:

a) identify the value of all NATO information and accomplish its disposition through the systematic and coordinated application of the related processes of appraisal, retention, and archiving or destruction;
b) retain and dispose of information as required for the conduct of current missions; and
c) document the Organization’s history by preserving in perpetuity in the NATO Archives authentic NATO information with permanent value.

8. Authentic NATO information meets at least one of the following criteria. Such information :

a) bears an original, hand-written signature or digital equivalent;
b) is created, received, maintained or managed by the office of primary interest for the mission or task;
c) is maintained or managed by the official information custodian of a NATO civil or military body; or
d) is an officially produced translation.


9. The NIMP and the Primary Directive on Information Management (PDIM), define Disposition within the NATO context as a distinct stage in the information life-cycle that comprises the related processes of Appraisal, Retention, and Archiving or Destruction.These processes are further defined below.

10. To support the Disposition stage, and as called for in the PDIM, NATO shall create and maintain metadata elements that facilitate the processes related to disposition.

11. NATO shall document the actions (transfer to the NATO Archives or destroy) taken in the Disposition stage by maintaining metadata that enables audit and accountability for the information.


12. Appraisal is the examination of information to determine its value. As defined in the NIMP, NATO Information has permanent value if it is required to document NATO’s evolution and missions, consultation and decision making processes.

13. For the purposes of appraisal, this means that information, in any medium or form, has permanent value if it documents:

a) significant consultations, decisions, policies, events, missions and activities;
b) the structure and evolution of the Organization;
c) the Organization’s legal and financial status, obligations and accountability;
d) the impact of the Organization’s decisions on the rights, health and safety of NATO personnel and/or other persons;
e) the Organization’s impact on the physical environment; or
f) informs public knowledge and understanding of the Organization’s purposes, principles and achievements.

14. Permanent and Temporary values will be identified based on a macro-appraisal of the information produced by bodies, offices, committees and functions and applied to the corresponding individual information items.


15. Retention is the management of information for an identified number of years to support the conduct of current missions. Retention is based on:

a) mission requirements;
b) legal and financial obligations;
c) evidence and accountability; and
d) general information needs.

Archiving or Destruction

16. The final processes of Disposition are the systematic archiving or destruction of NATO Information based on its assigned value and the completion of its retention period.

17. At the end of its retention period:

a) authentic NATO information with permanent value shall be preserved in perpetuity in the NATO Archives according to applicable international standards; and
b) all NATO information with temporary value shall be destroyed:
• after concurrence from information owners that it is no longer needed to support current missions, and that all legal, financial, evidential and accountability requirements have been met; and
• according to the Policy on the Management of Non-Classified NATO Information2if the information is unclassified; and
• according to the NATO Security Policy3 and its supporting Directives if the information is classified.

Roles and Responsibilities

18. It is the responsibility of:

a) information managers and archivists in NATO civil and military bodies to coordinate with the NATO Archivist about establishing and maintaining retention and disposition schedules for their information;
b) information owners to define retention periods for their information;
c) information owners and information custodians to jointly implement the agreed retention and disposition schedules for their information; and
d) the NATO Archivist to develop, approve, review, monitor compliance and implement policies, directives and schedules on the retention and disposition of NATO information, and to report:
• to the nations through the Archives Committee; and
• to NATO civil and military bodies through the NATO Information Management Authority.

1. Currently C-M (2007)0118
2. Currently C-M (2002)60 (under review)
3. Currently C-M (2002)49

Go to Homepage Go to Index