Releasing All We Can, Protecting What We Must

This past Wednesday, the National Archives hosted a public forum to discuss how the National Declassification Center (NDC) should prioritize the declassification of records. The forum was an active and lively discussion. We heard many suggestions and comments from members of the public on a draft prioritization plan. I was joined on stage by Sheryl Shenberger, the first permanent director of the NDC; Michael Kurtz, the Assistant Archivist for Records Services – Washington, D.C. and former Acting Director of the NDC; and Beth Fidler, senior archivist in the Office of Presidential Libraries.

The prioritization plan is being developed with your help. We’ve woven the principles of open government — transparency, participation, and collaboration — into our process. We made the draft plan publicly available on our website. We’ve received your comments and suggestions through email, the NDC Blog, and the June 23 public forum. We also worked to bring the forum to those who were unable to attend in person through a live webcast.

The prioritization plan will serve as a roadmap in processing the backlog of 400 million pages of classified records by December 31, 2013. The goal is to get as many of these documents as possible on the open shelves as quickly as possible for researchers, journalists, historians, government officials, and the public.


(Photo Courtesy of the National Archives)

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the work of the National Declassification Center and the prioritization plan. We value your comments and ideas and hope you will continue to participate in this important dialogue.

On December 29, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13526, “Classified National Security Information.” Section 3.7 of the Order directed the establishment of the National Declassification Center (NDC) within the National Archives. The goals of the NDC are to streamline the declassification process, facilitate quality-assurance measures, and implement standardized training regarding the declassification of records determined to have permanent historical value.

I believe the Federal Government has reached a seminal moment in the declassification of records. The 400-million-page backlog of records denies Americans the ability to learn about the actions of our government and hold it accountable. By streamlining the declassification process, the NDC will make records available to the public much more quickly.

I look forward to continuing the discussion on our important work to release all we can and protect what we must.

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