The Defense Department’s handling of classified information is getting a wide-ranging review from the DoD inspector general. The review will look at efforts to decrease overclassification and promote information-sharing and transparency, Deputy IG Patricia Brannin wrote in a memo to top officials last October.
Although Pentagon leaders have occasionally acknowledged that overclassification of national security information is a problem for the agency, a systemic look “is unprecedented,” said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists, who posted a redacted copy of Brannin’s memo online Wednesday.
The review is required under the Reducing Over-Classification Act. At every agency with original classification authority, inspectors general must assess are how well officials are administering and following classification policies and procedures. Those evaluations are due by September 2013. While the DoD review is underway, it has no estimated completion time, Brannin said Wednesday.
While numerous agencies have original classification authority, the DoD review “is the most important,” Aftergood said, noting that it would cover the department’s large intelligence agencies. “This is a big chunk of the whole system.”
A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who helped shepherd the overclassification act through Congress, did not have a rundown on how many other agency inspectors general have begun their reviews. A second set of evaluations, due in September 2016, are supposed to pinpoint any policies, procedures and management practices that may contribute to “persistent misclassification of material.”
The law also requires agencies to provide yearly training for all employees with original classification authority and to designate a “classified information advisory officer” to help state, local and tribal governments navigate the system.