The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) normally celebrates Sunshine Week by hosting a public meeting. While the pandemic may have disrupted plans to host a public meeting at the National Archives, our members are using this time to advocate for increasing open and transparent government policies. Sunshine Week offers an opportunity for the new Presidential administration to take concrete actions to modernize the classification and declassification system, invest in advanced technologies to improve public access processing, including for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. First established in 2005, Sunshine Week always coincides with James Madison’s birthday on March 16. Many government organizations are scheduling events that showcase their efforts to expand access to government information. Civil Society organizations also host events designed to reinforce the need for accountability; to adopt policies limiting secrecy and to advocate for a more transparent government that is easily accessible to the public.
From its first report to the President in 2008 to its most recent report last year, the PIDB has advocated for new policies, practices, and processes to increase public access to government information. It has urged for the reform of the classification and declassification system and made recommendations supporting new processes to prioritize the review of records of significant public interest. This work continues.
The PIDB’s 2020 Report to the President highlighted the need for modernizing classification and declassification to accommodate the exponentially increasing volume of electronic information produced by the Executive branch. Earlier reports recognized the need to bridge the dark gap between paper-based systems in the Federal Government with the application of digital solutions and advanced technologies that agencies use in other mission and business processes. These reports include the PIDB’s 2016 White Paper Report on The Importance of Technology in Classification and Declassification, and its 2012 Report to the President on transforming the classification system.
The PIDB looks forward in the coming months to engaging with the new administration and with all stakeholders to identify actions and policies to improve public access to Government information.