Spanberger, Wenstrup Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Reform Security Classification System

Oct 17, 2023

The “Sensible Classification Act” Would Codify Classification Authority, Streamline Declassification Process, Invest in New Technology for Classification Reviews, & Require an Evaluation of Existing Security

Spanberger Is a Member of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence & Former CIA Case Officer

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-02) — Members of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — today introduced bipartisan legislation to reform and modernize the security classification system to reduce overclassification, prevent mishandling of classified information, promote better use of intelligence, and strengthen public trust.

The Sensible Classification Act would undertake significant reforms to the classification process. The bipartisan bill would codify classification authority, streamline the processes for declassification, direct training focused on sensible classification, invest in new technology to modernize the classification system, and direct a review regarding the necessity of existing security clearances to identify potential areas for additional reforms.

“As a former CIA case officer who routinely handled classified information, I know that America’s current classification system needs reform,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan, bicameral effort to increase accountability, protect classified information from bad actors, and prevent overclassification. As a Member of the House Intelligence Committee, I believe that both our national security and the American people’s trust in our intelligence community can be strengthened if we make commonsense fixes to our outdated classification system.”

“Our classified information systems are critical to the nation’s security and secrets, and technology has helped increase our capabilities over recent years,” said Wenstrup. “At the same time, the government too often overclassifies information, which has led the American people to distrust their government. As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 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.”

Specifically, the Sensible Classification Act would:

  • Codify classification authority as the President, Vice President, head of an agency, or the 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 allowing for additional staff to be hired and permitting members to serve until a successor is appointed;
  • Direct the federal government to develop an integrated technology solution on classification and declassification; and
  • Direct federal agencies to conduct a study on the necessity of number and types of security clearances with sufficient justification.

The U.S. Senate companion to the Sensible Classification Act was introduced in May 2023 by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA),  John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).


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