Today, the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) submitted its report to the President, A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System and published it on its website. This report focuses on the critical need to bring classification and declassification into the digital age by deploying advanced technology and by upgrading outdated paper-based policies and practices. Our recommendations align with the President’s Information Technology reform efforts and Management Agenda. If implemented, our recommendations will cut costs, increase Government efficiency and effectiveness, reinforce the protection of critical Government information, and improve our nation’s security. Modernization will reduce over-classification, make the protection of secrets more precise, and will improve declassification.
Modernizing how the Government manages its secrets is a national security imperative. The current system, designed 70-years ago to keep papers secret under lock and key, cannot keep pace and manage the volume of digital data and information that the Government creates on classified systems. It is also ill-suited for today’s many asymmetrical threats. Current declassification processes are manual and paper-based. They will not work on large volumes of digital information. Without radical policy changes and the adoption of advanced technology, the declassification system is poised to fail.
When we began work on this project almost four years ago, there was widespread agreement inside and outside Government that the current system was too old, did not fully support national security operations, cost too much, and does not function effectively in the digital environment. Despite agreement that change is necessary, the Government has not taken any concrete actions to modernize the system. Even as the Government is adopting new policies to facilitate the use of technology and then applying advanced technologies in other business areas, it has not invested in or planned for a new classification and declassification system.
The recommendations in our report are designed to serve as a blueprint on how to modernize the classification and declassification system. We included two overarching themes, each with recommendations on how to modernize this system: strategic policy changes and strategic technology changes. We also included near-term recommendations that could have an immediate impact. All our recommendations support a necessary paradigm shift to move from manual policies and processes to digital ones that fully support 21st century national security threats and missions.
We invite you to attend a virtual public meeting this Friday, June 5, at 11:00 a.m. You can register to attend here. After registering, participants will receive instructions via email on how to call in to the meeting by telephone and how to submit questions and comments.