NARA Seeks Input on Records Declassification Prioritization Plan





The National Archives recently released for public comment a draft prioritization plan for the National Declassification Center (NDC) . The plan focuses on moving the approximately 408 million pages of accessioned Federal records to the open stacks and clearing referrals in the Presidential Libraries Remote Archives Capture (RAC) program. A copy of the draft plan may be found by clicking here.

On December 30, 2009, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero announced the establishment of the National Declassification Center (NDC) within the National Archives and Records Administration. The creation of the NDC was mandated in Executive Order 13526 on Classified National Security Information signed by President Obama on December 29. Specifically, the NDC is charged with streamlining declassification processes, facilitating quality assurance measures, and implementing standard training for declassification reviewers. The executive order requires NARA to completely eliminate the 400+ million page backlog by December 31, 2013.

To achieve the NDC goal of making declassified records available to the public, the draft plan identifies three factors affecting how records will be prioritized:

1) High Public Interest – The NDC will use a variety of sources, including public input through a variety of social media technologies, and information about records requested in the NARA research rooms, and by the public through the Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act and Mandatory Declassification Review provisions of E.O. 13526.

2) Likelihood of Declassification – Factors include complexity of information, volume of tabs (exemptions, exclusions, referrals) and age of material. There are a number of lower level classified records which may lend themselves to quick turnaround, while other records contain classified information that must be protected under E.O. 13526 and will not result in significant public release.

3) Resources Required to Complete Declassification – Some Record Groups (RGs) are have information that must be protected under the provisions established in E.O. 13526, and contain multiple referrals to other equity agencies. Addressing interagency referrals is labor intensive for the NDC and the agencies in the current process. Performing declassification is more difficult on records with multiple referrals and would slow down the process. Researcher interest would determine how these records fit into the prioritization plan.

To apply these criteria to classified records, the NDC developed a matrix that places classified records in one of four categories:

  • Category 1 (High Interest, Easy to process) – 1% of the backlog
  • Category 2 (High Interest, Difficult to process) – 90% of the backlog of Federal records and 100% of Presidential materials referred through the RAC.
  • Category 3 (Low Interest, Easy to process) – 2% of the backlog
  • Category 4 (Low Interest, Difficult to process) – 7% of the backlog

Initially the NDC proposes that it will devote the majority of resources to the records in categories 1 and 2, with fewer resources devoted to categories 3 and 4.

The NDC is soliciting public comment via a blog (http://blogs.archives.gov/ndc) specifically devoted to the prioritization plan. Interested parties can also submit their comments on the plan via e-mail to the NDC at ndc@nara.gov.

In addition, on Wednesday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m., the National Archives will hold an open public forum to discuss the draft NDC prioritization plan. The meeting will take place in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building, 700 Constitution Avenue, NW, DC. Attendees should use the Special Events Entrance at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue.

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero will serve as moderator. Public comments submitted prior to June 23 will be summarized at the meeting.

This forum is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Attendees should register by June 18, 2010, by calling 301-837-0587. Leave your name, e-mail address, and phone number or email ndc@nara.gov.



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