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The United States plans to publish the third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) later this year as part of our commitment to the Open Government Partnership. The NAP will include new and expanded open government commitments that will be fulfilled in the next two years. In the first and second US NAPs, previous commitments related to classification and declassification have included:

  • Developing standard declassification processes and training
  • Creating a Security Classification Reform Committee
  • Implementing monitoring and tracking for declassification reviews

 This year the US is developing the NAP in consultation with the public through Hackpad, a collaborative platform. Learn more about this process on the White House Blog and visit the Hackpad to learn how to participate in the process.

 Visit the page “Classification Modernization” page to contribute your ideas related to classification and declassification. NAP commitments need to be:

  • Ambitious: pushing government beyond current practice by strengthening transparency, accountability, and public participation
  • Relevant: advancing one of the four open government principles of (1) transparency, (2) accountability, (3) participation, and/or (4) technology and innovation
  • Specific: describing the problem to be solved and expected outcomes
  • Measurable: allowing independent observers to gauge whether the commitment has been completed

 Check out other topic pages on FOIA, records management, fiscal transparency, and whistleblowers, etc. Please submit your ideas for possible commitments and help us strengthen open government.



The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) will host a public meeting to discuss the recommendations included in its Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, and its recommendation to employ existing technologies and develop and pilot new methods to modernize classification and declassification.

The meeting will include a discussion of the technology study the PIDB is conducting in collaboration with Executive Branch agencies.  There will be a briefing on the results of technology pilot projects completed at the Center for Content Understanding at the Applied Research Laboratories (UT: Austin), co-sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Archives.  In his Second Open Government National Action Plan, the President directed the CIA and the National Archives to pilot new tools to provide classification reviewers with search capability for unstructured data and automate initial document analysis, beginning with the Presidential Records from the Reagan Administration’s classified email system.

The Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero will offer opening remarks, a senior official from the White House will give comments on Open Government Initiatives and a research scientist from the Center for Content Understanding will provide a briefing on the pilot projects.

WHEN: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

WHERE:  National Archives and Records Administration
Room 105 – Archivist’s Reception Room
700 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20408

This meeting is open to the public. However, due to space limitations and access procedures, we require individuals planning to attend the meeting to register on Eventbrite. Please note that one form of Government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license) is required to gain admittance.



Today’s post comes from NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger and provides a summary of the NDC forum held on April 10, 2015.

Last Friday, April 10, Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, kicked off another successful NDC Public Forum, NDC Prioritization: What Secrets Do People Want to See? NDC had selected the subject of “prioritization” as it could relate to declassification, because the sheer number of records requiring declassification processing suggests to us that new approaches must be considered if we are to provide the history of the US government in a timely manner. NDC received a number of useful and practical suggestions during the two hours; I have captured a few high points below.

To set a baseline, I provided the NDC’s current five prioritized processes: 1) processing classified series for quality assurance within one year of their accessioning to the National Archives. Working with agencies in the future on a quality assurance approach to series not yet physically located at College Park. 2) Ramped up review of previously reviewed and exempted records in conjunction with an automated equity referral notification and tracking system. 3) Processing those records withdrawn before NARA established a computerized data capture system in 2002. 4) “Indexing on demand” for researchers to request series to go to the head of the final data entry and document segregation queue. 5) Special themed declassification projects when practical.

Senior Archivist David Langbart provided authoritative insight into both the practical applicability of and philosophical concerns with topic-based prioritization, and Supervisory Archivist Martha Murphy offered the audience a view into the method being used to complete the last of the JFK records.

Our VIP Panel then offered their unique views and suggestions on prioritization, its value and where it might be best applied. David Robarge from CIA gave his historian’s take on where CIA might go: focus on post–Cold War National Intelligence Estimates, President’s Daily Briefs (and their predecessor documents), the organization of the agency, and the declassification of certain covert action activities. Stephen Randolph from the Department of State acknowledged the multiple demands on declassification reviewers and the problems associated with thematic review. He offered the concept of an advisory committee that could prioritize NDC records, in the way of State Department’s successful Historical Advisory Committee. OpenTheGovernment.org’s Katherine Hawkins noted the logistics concerns and document-level pass/fail method of a high-volume operation like the NDC, lamented the release rate, and suggested that a clear definition for what constitutes “sources and methods” could expand the declassification of some series. Bill Burr and Nate Jones from the National Security Archive offered a number of specific record series NDC might focus on, such as presidential records, Secretary of Defense and of State files, and Director-level series from the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and the Intelligence Community. Like Katherine, they lamented the release rate, and Bill called out Defense for being overly restrictive. Nate noted that document-level review is “not doing the job,” and advocated for a redaction review that might lead to fewer re-reviews by doing this careful declassification review to start with. Representing the view of the Public Interest Declassification Board and its recent publication, “Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification,” Bill Leary agreed with fellow panel members that the current system of declassification is unsustainable especially in the light of electronic records. He suggested a focus on the more important records rather than the oldest and noted that the application of document-level pass/fail creates a bigger backlog down the road. He placed presidential records and previously exempted series at the head of a prioritization queue, and suggested the NDC identify record series that don’t warrant a review unless requested, identify those that could be declassified automatically, and then focus resources on the most requested records.

Questions and comments from the forum audience included advocacy for expedited review of the final JFK records, the prioritization of top-level records for redaction processing, and looking to NARA researcher requests for clues to prioritization.

The forum was recorded and is available for viewing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABsaEa9v4ik

Future blog posts will inform you on NDC progress with forum suggestions, comments, and concerns.



Washington, DC…The National Archives National Declassification Center (NDC) will host its next public forum on Friday, April 10, from 10 AM to noon, in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. This event is free and open to the public. Please enter via the Special Events entrance on Constitution Ave. and 7th St., NW. See directions.

 The theme for this year’s forum is NDC Prioritization: What Secrets Do People Want to See? Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero will provide opening remarks. NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger will update the public on NDC prioritization practices and ongoing declassification progress.

 NDC and National Archives staff, outside experts, and the public will address and discuss this year’s theme: NDC Prioritization: What Secrets Do People Want to See?The forum will conclude with a question and answer session with members of the public, moderated by NDC Supervisor Don McIlwain.

 Session highlights include:

  •  An overview of the role of provenance in archival holdings processing and arrangement, by Rick Peuser, Supervisory Archivist.
  • “Approaches to Prioritization” panel discussion with experts: David Robarge, chief historian, CIA; Stephen Randolph, Historian, Department of State; Katherine Hawkins, National Security Fellow, OpenTheGovernment.org; Nate Jones, FOIA Coordinator, National Security Archive; William Burr, Senior Analyst, National Security Archive; and Bill Leary, Public Member, Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB).

 For additional information or to submit questions in advance question, contact Don McIlwain at don.mcilwain@nara.gov or (301) 837-0587.

 The National Declassification Center, locatedat the National Archives at College Park, was established under Executive Order 13526 by Archivist David S. Ferriero on December 30, 2009. The NDC’s mission is to align people, processes, and technologies to advance the declassification and public release of historically valuable permanent records while maintaining national security. For more information see the National Declassification Center’s website at www.archives.gov/declassification.

 



Today’s “Sunshine Week” post comes from NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger and is an update on prioritized NDC projects and final processing.

In my previous blog posts I offered a new option for prioritizing records that lack final processing: the opportunity for interested researchers to choose which series from a selected list should go the head of our queue. Now I am offering you something new: a more inclusive listing of projects available for indexing. Below is a chart of the many series available for final processing, some are small, some contain many boxes. Some will require much segregation of still-sensitive information before they can be provided; others will indeed be a quick turn around. The spreadsheet contains all of the backlog entries that are in our Indexing queue and includes: the acronym or name and number of the original record group; NARA Holdings Managewment System (HMS) identification numbers; the record entry name for the series; dates of the records within the series (not always immediately available); and the size (possibly estimated) of the series itself. 

Master Backlog Index Queue List Feb 2015

As before, you can correspond with us via our ndc@nara.gov email box or by replying to this blog post. We can then offer you an estimate on the complexity of the final processing needed as well as a tentative timeline to completion.

We are still working the selected series I offered previously, and the following is a status report (in red):

  • REID 292485, RG 341 (U.S. Air Force), Entry UD 1001, “Assistant Chief Of Staff, Intelligence, Intelligence Report Files” – 1600 boxes (1.4M pages) Indexing started 6/15/2014 – 100% complete, included on Release List dated 15 September 2014, publically available.
  • REID108618, RG 255 (NASA), Entry A1 93-D, “Classified Numerical Files of Documents [NACA: Numerical File of Documents from the NACA Library, 1916-1962]” – 2,510 boxes (2.1M pages) Indexing started 7/18/2014 – 100% complete, included on Release List dated 15 September 2014, publically available.
  • REID 337873, RG 319 (Army Staff), Entry UD-WX 92, “Department Of The Army CMH Boxes Re Vietnam” – 190 boxes (450K pages) Indexing started 9/08/2014 – 100% complete and queued up for the next Release List.
  • REID 374812, RG 338, (U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Org. (WW II and Thereafter), Entry UD-UP 77, “Classified Records of U.S. Army Commands Transferred from the National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO” – 479 boxes (1.2M pages) Indexing started 10/06/2014 – 56% complete.
  • REID 163442, RG 72 (Bureau of Aeronautics), Entry UD 1047, “Technical Information Library Collection” – 8,038 boxes (6.7M pages) Indexing started 8/28/2014 – 52% complete.
  • REID 156444, RG 74 (Bureau of Ordinance), Entry A1 1021-A, “Scientific and Technical Reports” – 1,661 boxes (4.1M pages)
  • REID 341575, RG 402 (Bureau of Naval Weapons), Entry UD-UP 19, “Confidential and Unclassified Subject Files, 1960” – 231 boxes (577K pages)
  • REID 346288, RG 402, (Bureau of Naval Weapons), Entry UD-WX 1728, “Technical Reports” – 222 boxes (555K pages)
  • REID 319094, RG 343 (Naval Air Systems Command), Entry UD-WW 198, “Air 604 TECH Reports 69; Acc. # 69-A-4901” – 220 boxes (550K pages)
  • REID 132240, RG 38 (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations), Entry A1 1009, “Office Of Naval Intelligence; Publications File” – 486 boxes (405K pages)
  • REID 384848, RG 38 (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations), Entry UD-UP 14, “Archives Branch Hist Record, 1971” – 150 boxes (375K pages)
  • REID 319134, RG 343 (Naval Air Systems Command), Entry UD-WW 211, “Correspondence Relating to the Message Section [Air 60324 PRIM PROGM Records 67-69; Acc. # 70-A-1635]” – 111 boxes (278K pages)
  • REID 157274, RG 19 (Bureau of Ships), Entry UD 1017-AR, “Secret General Correspondence, 1962” – 270 boxes (224K pages)
  • REID 149085, RG 72 (Bureau of Aeronautics), Entry UD 1005-E, “Enclosures to Secret Correspondence Files” – 286 boxes (237K pages)
  • REID 157340, RG 19 (Bureau of Ships), Entry UD 1017-AU, “Secret General Correspondence, 1965” – 288 boxes (238K pages)
  • REID 13489, RG 38 (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations), Entry A1 1003, “ONI; Administrative Branch; Administrative Correspondence; 1948-1956” – 238 boxes (197K pages)
July 2015
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