National Declassification Center Issues Initial Status Report

The National Archives National Declassification Center (NDC) recently issued its first status report, covering the reporting period of January 1- June 30, 2010. During this time, nearly 8 million pages of material were processed and made available to the public.

The creation of the NDC is specified in the Executive Order 13526 on Classified National Security Information signed by President Obama on December 29, 2009. The NDC is charged with streamlining declassification processes, facilitating quality assurance measures, and implementing standard training for declassification reviewers.

NDC status reports will be issued biannually in July and January, and will cover the preceding six-months, focusing on events and activities, interagency cooperation, and a NDC’s progress on the records processing backlog.

Of course, the major benchmark by which the NDC will be measure is the progress it makes in reducing the 400 million + pages of materials awaiting declassification. EO 13526 requires the NDC eliminate the backlog by December 31, 2013.

To date, the NDC has made little progress in

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reducing the backlog. However, human and IT infrastructure, prioritization policies, business processes and personnel training procedures are still being developed and implemented. As a result, the NDC expects greater progress will be made over the next six months as these continue to come on line.

Total backlog pages as of January 1, 2010: 417,916,550 pp
Total pages released to the open shelves: 7,830,322 pp
Total backlog pages as of June 30, 2010: 410, 086, 228 pp

In its first six months, the NDC:

  • Created a web site to provide timely information and a blog to encourage and facilitate public comment. Both are available at:
  • Held an Open Forum June 23 at the National Archives Washington, DC, hosted by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, to discuss the NDC’s draft prioritization plan;
  • Held a three-day equity recognition training program May 25 – 27 to instruct reviewers on equities in the NARA backlog. Over 240 review personnel from 26 agencies attended, and 15 agencies presented equity briefings;
  • Completed preservation actions on all Federal classified special media records with a review deadline of 2011. These records are now in a format that can be reviewed by the equity-holding agencies;
  • Established a classified special media lab to support Agency reviews of their classified equities in multiple special media formats;
  • Prioritized certain records collections within the Presidential Libraries for review. Another example of records that have been “fast tracked” are China-related materials within the Kissinger Personal Paper Collection;
  • Improved the system so that all declassification processing occurs prior to archival processing to avoid delays in making declassified records available to researchers.

NDC goals for the coming months include:

  • Finding a new IT system design to support improved NDC processes, improved data collection, and integration. This system would also track records from accessioning to their final availability to the public, in order to facilitate referral review for declassification and release;
  • Developing new and more efficient processes for interagency declassification review and processing of special media and electronic records; and
  • Crafting better work processes for Freedom of Information Act/Mandatory Declassification Reviews for classified Federal records to provide for more timely responses to public requests.