Sunshine Week and Open Government Progress

We are pleased to announce the Presidential appointments of Ms. Laura A. DeBonis and Mr. Solomon B. Watson, IV as members to the PIDB on March 12, 2015.  It is fitting that the newest members of the PIDB are able to participate in our executive session meeting being held today.  As we reflect on the significance of Sunshine Week and public access to Government information, we intend to use our meeting today to both review what has happened in the past year and decide on plans for the coming year.  We will take a detailed look at past year Government accomplishments to see what policymakers and practitioners have made to advance open government initiatives, particularly those committed to the transformation of the security classification system.  We will also take this opportunity to see what challenges and impediments still exist and see where we may be able to advocate for more change and modernization.

The National Archives and the Central Intelligence Agency earned well-deserved praise for the pilot projects they spearheaded at the Center for Content Understanding (CCU). We were able to view firsthand their accomplishments when we traveled to the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin in September 2014.  Some of the technologies developed at the CCU are already in use at the CIA and are leading to improved efficiency and better reviews overall.  Still, we will continue to advocate for the adoption and use of these technologies across declassification programs in the Government, including at the National Declassification Center.  Although the records included in the pilot project are not yet publicly available, the results are an important step forward to declassification modernization.

Another open government commitment of particular interest to the PIDB is for change in the treatment of obsolete historical nuclear information.  We were excited to hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) created the Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) Working Group in response to this National Action Plan commitment and were pleased to learn that DoD made reviewing obsolete FRD information for declassification its flagship open government initiative.  Just last week, the DoD updated its website to show the eight facts it declassified through the working group process and in cooperation with the Departments of Energy and State.

Still, we believe there is more work to be done on both these important initiatives to wholly fulfill their commitments included in the Second National Action Plan for Open Government.  We urge senior leaders to increase actions, allow for wider implementation, and greater public access to the Reagan email collection and no longer sensitive nuclear information that is of historical interest.  Additionally, we hope to see agencies increasing public access to Government information of interest to the public, a focus of our Setting Priorities report to the President last year.

As Sunshine Week continues, we will comment more on open government initiatives. We want to thank the hardworking professionals who conduct declassification and access reviews at the agencies for their dedication to Government transparency and thank them for their work on behalf of the public.

 

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