CUI & FOIA Training clarifies the distinction between the Controlled Unclassified Information program and the Freedom of Information Act.
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About Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)
The President is committed to making government more open to the American people, as outlined in the January 21, 2009 memorandum to the heads of Executive departments and agencies. At the same time, it has long been recognized that important purposes require the government to protect some information pursuant to and consistent with applicable law, regulations, and government-wide policies.
The Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program standardizes the way the Executive branch handles information that requires such protection and that is not classified. That protection involves the safeguards employed while being stored or used by the Executive branch department or agency, as well as the controls involving how the information is disseminated. There are currently more than 100 different policies for such information across the Executive branch. This ad hoc, agency-specific approach has created inefficiency and confusion, leading to a patchwork system that fails to adequately safeguard information requiring protection, and unnecessarily restricts information sharing by creating needless impediments.
Executive Order 13556 "Controlled Unclassified Information"
On November 4, 2010, President Obama signed Executive Order 13556 "Controlled Unclassified Information", which establishes a program for managing this information. It requires a conversation between the Executive Agent (EA), departments or agencies, other stakeholders, and the general public to consolidate and standardize CUI terms and practices.
The CUI EO prescribes a bottom-up approach, in which each department and agency will be required to:
- Identify all Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) markings being employed in their particular department or agency;
- Identify the authority for those markings, i.e. law, regulation, government-wide policy;
- Review those markings to identify any areas for consolidation or the elimination of redundancy; and
- Specifically define all categories, subcategories, and markings that the department or agency would like to continue to employ.
The EA will collect this information and lead an interagency process to establish an Executive branch-wide definition and taxonomy of categories of CUI.
Finally, after consultation with additional stakeholders and the public, this taxonomy and standardized definitions will be published in a public CUI registry to increase transparency and ensure consistent application.
First Year Milestones
On June 9, 2011, the EA issued Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) Office Notice 2011-01: Initial Implementation Guidance for Executive Order 13556.
Initial CUI categories and subcategories were published in the CUI Registry on November 4, 2011. Also on November 4, 2011, the EA submitted its first annual CUI Report to the President.
On November 22, 2011, the EA and the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy issued Guidance regarding CUI and the Freedom of Information Act.