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NDC Indexing Update

by on August 12, 2015


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

In my March blog post, I offered you a listing of projects that have been completed for quality assurance review and are available for indexing and final withhold processing. As The Department of Energy has completed more of its own QA on the backlog, more series are available for on-demand processing, so we have broken the listings into two unique pdfs of the currently available series you can request. Some of these are small, and some contain 1000s of boxes. Some projects can be turned around quickly as they won’t require much in the way of segregation of still-sensitive information. Some contain privacy or personal identifying information that could affect their availability. The spreadsheets have the following categories: the acronym or name and number of the original record group; NARA 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.

Backlog Master Index Queue Part One                           Backlog Master Index Queue Part Two

Since we stood up this “Indexing on Demand” option, we have completed 58 projects totaling 3.5M pages; 3.1 M of those pages were declassified and released in full for an 89% release rate.

As before, you can correspond with us via our ndc@nara.gov email box or by replying to this blog post. You can also visit with our representative in the Archives II reference area, Stephanie Coon, who would be happy to address your questions and requests. She can offer you an estimate on the complexity of the final processing needed as well as a tentative timeline to completion.



The NDC has released a listing of 102 entries that have completed declassification processing between February 9, and June 26, 2015 and are now available for researcher request. This release consists of records from both military and civilian agencies. Highlights include:

  • Department of the Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command, War Diaries, 1946 – 1953,
  • Department of State, Records Relating to Cuba,
  • Department of State, Brazil, U.S. Consulate General, Rio de Janeiro: Classified Central Subject Files,
  • Department of State, Treaty Background Subject Files,
  • Office of the Secretary of Defense, Strategic Planning Files of the Deputy of Special Operations, Edward G. Landsdale,
  • Office of the Secretary of Defense, Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA); Records Concerning Research on Silent Aircraft, and
  • Records of the Naval Air Systems Command, PHOENIX Missile System Program Review Records, and

Requests to access the newly released records or to order copies should be directed to Archives 2 Reference at 301-837-3510 or archives2reference@nara.gov.

(When making a request, please cite the HMS Entry and Series Title.)



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.

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