On September 11-12, 2014, the PIDB traveled to College Station and Austin, Texas to see first-hand how the Presidential Libraries are providing access to their important holdings. The PIDB would like to thank the Directors and staff at the George. H. W. Bush and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Libraries for hosting us. We appreciated their candid comments on how these historically significant records can be better prioritized for declassification review. The PIDB believes the records in the Presidential Libraries are among our nation’s most valuable. We share and support the National Archives’ commitment to ensuring long-term access to these important and sought-after records. Our aim is to bring greater awareness to the challenges facing declassification programs at these Libraries so that Presidential records, including electronic records, may receive priority for declassification and public access.
In addition to visiting these two Presidential Libraries, the PIDB met with research scientists from the Center for Content Understanding (CCU) at the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at the University of Texas at Austin. The research scientists at the CCU are supporting a joint effort of the National Archives and the Central Intelligence Agency to develop and use technology to identify specific information in Reagan administration electronic records for declassification. The pilot project calls for testing technological capabilities performing rules-based analysis to aid and automate classification and declassification decision-making. This effort supports a commitment the President made in his Second Open Government National Action Plan, adopted from the PIDB’s recommendation in our 2012 Report on Transforming the Security Classification System. The PIDB extends its appreciation and gratitude to the professionals at the CCU and ARL for hosting our visit and for providing a comprehensive briefing on this successful pilot project. The PIDB believes the government should continue efforts to support this important work. It offers a way for the Record Access Information Security Interagency Policy Committee / Classification Reform Committee to begin analysis of how technology will transform the classification system and make declassification more efficient and effective. Implementing technological tools, like the ones tested at the CCU, are imperative – without it, the government will not be able to keep pace with the volume of records requiring declassification review.