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FHWA Order M 1324.1A
This Directive was canceled July 29, 2013.

FHWA Files Management and Records Disposition Manual: Chapter 1
Classification Code Date Office of Primary Interest
M 1324.1A November 4, 1999  


  1. PURPOSE. The purpose of a files classification system is to provide a set of policies and procedures for organizing and identifying files or documents to speed their retrieval, use, and disposition. The type of files classification preferred for FHWA use is a hierarchical files classification system. This type of system may be organized by concrete, abstract, or functional words, or by project or case number, or a combination of these; but to work well, it shall be:

    1. Representative of informational needs. The classification should conform to users' requirements. The kinds of records users needed, the way users request them, and the terms users use to request records should shape the files classification system.

    2. Logical. Subjects should be grouped in a clearly logical order so that the reasons for the arrangement will be easily obvious to the users.

    3. Precise. Each subject title should be precise in describing the category, thereby encouraging filing at the lowest possible rung on the hierarchical ladder, if volume requires.

    4. Restrictive. Each subject title should be phrased to be as exclusive of others as possible. There should be only one term to denote a subject, no matter how many synonyms may express the same idea.

    5. Complete. There should be suitable categories for all existing and anticipated records.

    6. Flexible. There should be a way of contracting or expanding the classification outline to allow subjects to be dropped or added as necessary.


    1. Hierarchical arrangements that meet the above criteria facilitate document retrieval by limiting the area of search; this reduces search time and increases the likelihood that no appropriate files are missed when searching for a record.

    2. A good files classification system also makes filing easier and reduces the chance of misfiling records. This increases confidence in the ability to locate records quickly when needed and minimize the use of duplicate or "cuff" files.

    3. Records are the result of business processes and functions and are used in relation to them. This establishes the principle that records should be grouped and maintained according to the business function to which they relate. When files are arranged in functional groups, files can be added, deleted, or modified easily without changing the structure of the filing system. When reorganizations occur, functions can be transferred from one office to another with slight or no modifications in the file structure.

  3. PROCEDURES. The files classification system as presented in this Manual, is a modified subject-numeric filing system. Under this system, the main topics are organized alphabetically, and the subdivisions of those topics are coded numerically. The main topics are coded by symbols to remind the user of the subject; for example, IRM for Information Resources Management and PER for Personnel.

    The subjects are arranged in a hierarchical system in which records pertaining to a particular subject are arranged under primary categories and then, as necessary, under secondary and tertiary subdivisions.

    1. Filing Classification. Classifying records involves the ability to select the most appropriate subject classification, to recognize related subject matter of sufficient importance to warrant cross-referencing, and to distinguish between papers that belong in subject and case files.

      (1) Classifying subject file material. Papers to be filed in subject files are marked in the upper-right corner with file codes taken from the left column of the File Outline. The following techniques are used in selecting the correct subject file classifications:

      (a) read the subject line, if any, first.

      (b) look for key phrases or familiar terms used in the text and check these against the file outline or the index.

      (c) note the addressee and/or originator. The identification of either may help to establish the subject area with which the document is associated.

      (2) Classifying case files material. Papers are marked in the same manner as the subject material. However, not all papers for case files need to be marked. Certain forms and reports used in personnel, fiscal, and other operations show numbers, names, and other identifying characteristics that are self-classifying, and need no further identifying markings to ensure that they are correctly filed. If a document is to be filed in a case file folder, also underline the case file identification in red where it first appears in the document.

      (3) Classification review. Files personnel should double check file codes before filing to ensure that they are accurate.

    2. Cross-Reference. Cross-referencing is the filing of a document or a cross reference form when the same document is needed in two separate subject or case file folders.

      (1) Cross-reference of file folders. Use cross-reference labels on file folders when two files are frequently used in conjunction with each other.

      (2) Cross-reference of papers. Cross-reference papers when information must be placed in more than one file. Place the official file copy in the file to which it most closely relates. Avoid unnecessary cross-references. This consumes time and greatly complicates records retrieval.

  4. CLASSIFIED RECORDS. Classified records are filed in security file containers (see DOT H 1350.2, DOT Information Resources Manual, Chapter 11 - Systems Security), apart from unclassified papers, including those marked "For Official Use Only."

    1. The interfiling of unclassified and classified papers is restricted to those papers that directly support, explain, or document the record of the action or transaction. A file containing mixed classified and unclassified documents is filed in a security container.

    2. If a very few pertinent documents are classified, they can be cross-referenced in an unclassified file and removed from the security container only when required.

    3. In cases where matters requiring the transaction of official business occur in personal correspondence, the portion of such correspondence that pertains to official business is extracted and made part of the official file.

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