Public Interest Declassification Board Issues Report to the President
Press Release · Monday, December 17, 2012

Washington, DC…The Public Interest Declassification Board has released its report to the President providing recommendations for transforming the Federal government’s security classification system.

The report is online []. The recommendations were outlined at a public meeting held at the National Archives on Thursday, December 6, 2012.

In issuing the report, Chair Nancy Soderberg said, “Our report makes the case that a redesign of the classification system is needed. The current system is 70 years old and is wholly incapable of dealing with the enormous volume of information generated today. Our national security professionals must operate very differently today keep our nation safe. New policies that promote information sharing, limit classification, and allow for technology use to sift through petabytes of information is essential.”

The report details 14 recommendations on the need for new policies for classifying information, new processes for declassifying information, and the imperative for using and integrating technology into these processes. The Board advises the President to appoint a White House Steering Committee to lead the reform effort. Key recommendations include:

  • Streamlining the classification system into two levels to properly align with current access practices in Government;
  • Creating policies to limit classification and reduce classification;
  • Reforming declassification, including providing for a systematic review process for historical nuclear information;
  • Implementing new policies to support records management modernization and early identification of historically important records;
  • Developing and using pilot projects to evaluate how technology can improve declassification and classification processes.

The Board developed its recommendations after extensive research and engagement with stakeholders and users. It consulted with experts from the transparency community, classifiers, declassifiers, and senior leaders at Agencies, and technologists from industry.

At the meeting, Ambassador Soderberg concluded by saying “we believe the current classification and declassification systems are outdated and do not provide the right balance between the need to protect Government secrets and the public’s right to know what its Government is doing. This report makes a strong case for the need for transformation and has framed the challenges and offered solutions – but it will be up to the Government to decide how to act on our recommendations and to decide how to manage our nation’s security in the modern information age.”

The Public Interest Declassification Board is an advisory committee established by Congress by Public Law 106-567 in 2000 in order to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities. Congress appropriated funds and members were first appointed in late 2005. The Board’s first Presidential report, Improving Declassification, was released in 2008 and led to changes in that were implemented in Executive order 13526, “Classified National Security Information.”

The Board is presently composed of seven individuals, four appointed by the President and three by the Congressional leadership. The President appointed Nancy Soderberg (Chair), Martin Faga, William Leary, and Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker. The Speaker of the House appointed Admiral William O. Studeman, USN (Ret.) and the Minority Leader of the House appointed David Skaggs (Vice Chair). The Majority Leader of the Senate appointed Sanford Ungar. There is one Presidential appointment vacancy and one Congressional appointment vacancy.

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The report is online [].
Printed copies will be available in January and may be requested via e-mail:
Also see the Transforming Classification blog []

For press information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at (202) 357-5300.


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