The nationwide exchange of criminal history information is both necessary and useful, although it entails economics, technical, legislative, and political issues. Due to the high cost to participating States of a centralized national criminal history file, any future system for the interstate exchange of criminal history records will probably be decentralized and under the policy control of States. Advances in computing power have promoted the rapid growth in the automation of criminal history systems. Advances in communications technology have matched the advances in computing power so that many States have been able to upgrade their systems to satisfy most intrastate needs from internal State files. Concerns over privacy issues make it clear that an exchange system must be decentralized, with a management policy sensitive to States' legal, political, and social concerns. LEAA regulations and State legislation have been enacted to control the maintenance and use of criminal records. Three recent major publications have demonstrated an emerging consensus for a decentralized exchange system. However, standard procedures for obtaining criminal records do not exist. Since disadvantages are involved in relying on the laws and policy of either the donor State or the recipient State, it would be preferable to develop national standards. To date, efforts to pass Federal legislation establishing such standards have failed. A desirable alternative approach would be an interstate compact, a binding legal instrument which establishes formal cooperation among the States. Endnotes are provided.