NPEC Paper Offers Ideas to Reduce Over-classification; Touts Greater Role for the PIDB

Published on March 28, 2022, by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), Occasional Paper 2303, Over-classification: How Bad Is It, What’s the Fix?, highlights examples of over-classification that increasingly undermine U.S. national security; offers ideas for reforms to reduce over-classification; and advocates for appropriate funds to support the staff and operations of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB). The extensive findings presented in the paper result from a series of 11 working group sessions with a wide range of government and outside-government experts (including the PIDB chair and members), conducted between April 2020 and September 2021, by NPEC Executive Director Henry Sokolski. Mr. Sokolski briefed the PIDB members on these findings in the PIDB executive session held on March 19, 2023.

The NPEC paper supports the process to revise Executive Order 13526 , Classified National Security Information, begun by the National Security Council in June 2022, and calls for Congress to appropriate funding and to authorize a greater role for the PIDB in promoting the consolidation and automation of classification management across the federal government. Many of these findings align with recommendations in the PIDB’s 2020 Report to the President, A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System

Mr. Sokolski’s remarks introducing the paper on NPEC’s official website reiterate critiques of excessive secrecy by secretaries of the U.S. Air Force, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Staff, and the heads of Space Command and the Space Force, which have been noted here, for example, in the PIDB’s blog Transforming Classification. The paper also broadly echoes points made by the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, in her January 2023 keynote address at the conference on “America’s Secrets: Classified Information and Our Democracy,” co-sponsored by the PIDB at the LBJ Presidential Library, in Austin, Texas.

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