The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Overclassification Reduction Act, a bill that is intended to help reduce inappropriate classification of information in government.
The bill would require the National Archivist to develop regulations to help combat overclassification. The bill would mandate increased accountability for classification actions, with incentives for challenging improper classification and penalties for abuse of classification authority. Importantly, it would require agency inspectors general to perform periodic audits of classification activity to ensure compliance with classification standards.
While the bill represents a welcome expression of congressional interest in overclassification, its proposed solution does not seem carefully adapted to the problem.
“The problem of overclassification is government-wide and it demands a government-wide solution,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who introduced the bill along with Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).
But that is unlikely to be true, because it presumes that overclassification is a uniform phenomenon across the government, which is not the case. Overclassification at the CIA is not the same as overclassification at the Pentagon or the State Department. Not only do these agencies have different institutional cultures, their classification policies revolve around different sets of security concerns, and they are implemented through distinct sets of procedures.
A government-wide regulation like the 2003 implementing directive issued by the Information Security Oversight Office can set important parameters for classification duration, classifier training, document marking, and so forth. But that directive has not been an effective vehicle for reversing or combating overclassification.
An alternate approach to the problem will be described in Secrecy News next week.
To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.
Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.