Open the Government, a nonpartisan coalition composed of civil society and government transparency focused organizations published its report, Accountability 2021 in December. The report promotes several long- and short-term recommendations that also support previous recommendations by the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB). The PIDB’s most recent report to the President, A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernizing the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System, its 2016 White Paper, The Importance of Technology in Classification and Declassification, and its 2012 Report to the President, Transforming the Security Classification System focused on the need to use advanced technologies to make classification more precise and improve declassification.
The Accountability 2021 report included several recommendations regarding the use of information technology. It identified investments in technology modernization as a key short-term goal towards building a more transparent government. Echoing recommendations of the PIDB, they find that changes and improvements to classification and declassification will require modernizing the current structure to align with the information systems and advanced technologies used to support national security. Like the PIDB’s 2020 report, the Accountability 2021 report also recommended use of a system-of-systems approach under the direction of a designated agency or executive agent.
In its 2020 report, the PIDB emphasized that effective improvements to declassification policy also need to also include the implementation of secure information technology connectivity between and among all agencies managing classified information, specifically including the National Archives and Records Administration which manages the National Declassification Center and classified records of the Presidential Libraries.
Open the Government recommended the use of advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to assist declassification and public access, but also highlighted the need to coordinate their adoption and governance among agencies. This recommendation aligns with the PIDB’s recommendation to have the Director of National Intelligence serve as the Executive Agent. It believes that it is critical to have one entity leading, managing, and coordinating modernization efforts across agencies, and have that entity be responsible to the President.
The PIDB supports the recommendations in Open the Government’s report and looks forward to engaging with their organizations and the new administration.