Congress is once again looking at reforming and modernizing the way the federal government classifies documents. In May, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to reform the classification process.
Now, lawmakers in the House have introduced companion legislation.
The Sensible Classification Act was introduced by Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), members of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The goal is to prevent overclassification of documents, cut down on the potential mishandling of classified information, and restore public trust in the classification process.
“As a former CIA case officer who routinely handled classified information, I know that America’s current classification system needs reform,” said Rep. Spanberger. “I believe that both our national security and the American people’s trust in our intelligence community can be strengthened if we make common-sense fixes to our outdated classification system.”
The legislation takes a number of actions. It would:
· Codify classification authority to the President, Vice President, agency head, or an individual to whom such authority has been delegated and specify how the authority is delegated and the training required to receive it.
· Promote efficient declassification for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Mandatory Declassification Review.
· Require training to promote sensible classification.
· Improve the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) by hiring additional staff and allowing members to serve until a successor is appointed.
· Direct the federal government to develop an integrated technology solution on classification and declassification.
· Direct federal agencies to conduct a study on the necessity of number and types of security clearances with sufficient justification.
“I want the declassification process to be efficient, so citizens have the transparency they deserve, while also keeping our secrets out of enemy hands. This bill strikes that balance and will enhance accountability and oversight,” said Rep. Wenstrup.
This is companion legislation to a Senate bill (S.1518) introduced in May by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).
Senator Warner called the current classification system “obsolete” noting that with the “explosion in digital records, the status quo is no longer tenable” and that the current system is “devoid of accountability and has grown increasingly byzantine, bureaucratic, and outmoded.”
That bill has languished since its introduction.
As reported in FEDmanager, a separate bill called the Classification Reform Act of 2023 was also introduced in the Senate in May. That bill has not advanced either.