The Pentagon’s deputy defense secretary this week reminded staffers that retaining messages and emails sent through government cellphones is required under the Federal Records Act after texts from senior-level Defense Department officials were scrubbed on Jan. 6, 2021.
In a memo sent out this week, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks reminded Pentagon officials that retaining required records “is a solemn responsibility and legal obligation for all federal employees, civilian and military.”
The government mobile devices of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, former Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were wiped in the days after the end of former President Donald Trump’s term in the White House.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to know if the missing phone records could be related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol.
“I don’t know whether the failure to preserve these critical government texts from January 6 is the result of bad faith, stunning incompetence, or outdated records management policies, but we must get to the bottom of it,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.
Following Wednesday’s statement from Ms. Hicks, a Pentagon spokesperson said the Defense Department will be transparent with Congress and the public on records retrieval and stewardship going forward.
Department of Defense “users are required to retain text messages that qualify as federal records,” the spokesperson said.