Transforming classification

ABOUT: FERMI is the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) effort to provide a government-wide, modern, cost-effective, standardized, and interoperable set of records management solutions and services to Federal agencies. NARA has identified the common, core requirements all agencies need to support their records management programs.

VANTAGE: Federal agencies have different missions, structures, and resources, as well as lack common needs for managing their electronic records. Agencies need to manage their records in compliance with NARA’s statutes, regulations, and guidance. FERMI emerged from the Automated Electronic Records Management Plan, to support the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18). NARA serves as the Records Management Standards Lead for the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Unified Shared Services Management (USSM) office’s Business Standards Council.


On Monday, AUGUST 6, 2018: In conjunction with GSA, NARA held an Industry Day in the McGowan Theater and streamed the event live on NARA’s YouTube channel. NARA and GSA publicized how vendors listed on GSA Schedule 36, Special Item Number 51-600, Electronic Records Management would have the opportunity to create demos based on the draft “ Use Cases for Electronic Messages.” The Use Cases are modeled after the ERM Federal Integrated Business Framework (ERM-FIBF), and describe how to manage electronic messages.

Ms. Starzak joins PIDB from her current position at Cloudflare, a company providing web-security and optimization services. In this position she is responsible for public policy. Prior to joining Cloudflare, Ms. Starzak worked for the U.S government in a variety of national security positions. Most recently, she served as the 21st General Counsel of the U.S. Department of the Army, after confirmation by the Senate. As General Counsel of the Army, she was the primary legal counsel to the Secretary of the Army and the Army’s chief legal officer. Her appointment as Army General Counsel followed service as the Deputy General Counsel for Legislation at the U.S. Department of Defense. As Deputy General Counsel she advised on legal issues with a legislative or congressional component, and managed an office of attorneys responsible for developing the Department of Defense legislative program.

Prior to moving to the Department of Defense, Ms. Starzak served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, focusing on legal issues relating to intelligence collection and covert action, and as an Assistant General Counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of General Counsel. She also worked in private practice in Washington, D.C., and clerked for The Honorable E. Grady Jolly, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She graduated from Amherst College and the University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. Ms. Starzak is serving her first term on the PIDB.

The PIDB continues its role advising the President, Executive Branch officials, and Congress on ways to bring sunshine to the security classification system in the interest of our national security. During Sunshine Week, we want to share our plans for a new report and series of recommendations we believe will transform the security classification system from its antiquated, overburdened state to a modernized system capable of functioning in the digital age.

The PIDB, forming a Declassification Technology Working Group in 2015, began conversations with government technology and information officers and experts to hear of concerns and needs in the classification and declassification frontlines. Through these exchanges and findings, we reiterate our long-held recommendation that modernization of the classification system is a critical imperative. Earnest and real attempts must be made to ensure a transparent and credible security classification system by reducing over-classification and improving declassification to sustain our democratic values and citizenry from an antiquated, overburdened system.

We know the new era must be met with a bold vision, a vision that clearly and systematically surveys the future of classification and declassification for the twenty-first century. In the next few weeks we will engage with our public and government stakeholders to share a draft report titled: A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System. We will seek comments and feedback on the draft Report from our stakeholders before finalizing the recommendations and presenting to the President.

The vision we provide is for a uniform, integrated and modernized security classification system sustainable in the digital environment that appropriately protects national security interests and instills confidence in the American people. The declassification business model for the future centers on (1) organizing for success via a more unified and federated enterprise-level system-of-systems approach to records declassification and (2) the acquisition and adoption of technologies and processes that leverage information age IT and telecommunications innovation and systems development.

Last Friday marked the completion of the rolling review and release of the final records still publicly withheld from the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) acknowledges the importance of the completion of the rolling release of these records, but we must note with disappointment failure of the responsible agencies to meet the legal requirements set by the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The PIDB recognizes and respects that it is likely some of the JFK records were properly subject to being withheld or redacted to protect legitimate national security information which should remain classified. However, with the 25 years of advance notice afforded by the 1992 Act, it is difficult now to understand why the October 26 deadline passed largely unmet. Certainly, there will be no excuse for a failure by any agency to meet the extended deadline of April 26, 2018, set by the President. The American public deserves no less. We look forward to the completion of the re-review process that the President has directed and will continue monitoring the release of these records of high historical significance.

Yesterday, President Trump presented Argentine President Mauricio Macri with a CD containing approximately 3,300 pages of records relating to human rights abuses committed in Argentina between 1975 and 1984. The documents are part of a comprehensive interagency project by 14 Government departments and agencies to search their archives and identify and review for public access records documenting these abuses. They have been long sought by the Government of Argentina and researchers.

The documents released today are grouped into two collections. The first group contains newly available information from previously withheld documents. They were originally reviewed by the State Department in 2002 but reviewers determined they could not be released to the public at that time. They provide new details on U.S. policies, information on specific abuse cases, and U.S. efforts to end abuses. These documents are integrated into a database titled, “Argentina Declassification Project” and can be viewed here.

The second group of documents consists of records identified by State Department historians as they compiled the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) South America, 1977-1980 volume. They document high-level policy discussions and deliberations as the Carter administration sought to deal with the Argentine dictatorship. These documents were identified for inclusion in the Argentina and Latin American Region chapters and can be viewed here.

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) has long recommended the importance of prioritizing records for declassification. In 2012, we wrote our report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System and focused on this recommendation in our 2014 report to the President titled Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification. The recommendations in these reports advocated that the best use of department and agency resources should be spent on reviewing relevant topics of historical interest. The PIDB commends the cooperative effort by all departments and agencies undertaking exemplary projects like this one which are of great historical value and should become a prototype for the declassification of significant government information.

Sunshine Week is also an opportunity to commemorate the tenure of one of our longest serving members, Sanford Ungar. Sandy completed his third appointment as a member of the PIDB in early March. Among his many accomplishments while on the PIDB, Sandy was instrumental in developing the recommendations for all three PIDB Reports to the President, including the latest Setting Priorities report, which focuses on the prioritization of historical records of interest in declassification review. Sandy’s experience as a journalist and historian helped shaped many of his insights while a PIDB member. His dedicated service to the nation will not be forgotten and we wish him all the best in the next chapter of his professional and personal life. We are thankful the PIDB will have Sandy as an enduring resource to call upon as we continue our work in promoting a more open government. On behalf of the members, past and present, we thank Sandy for his contributions and congratulate him on his tenure as a member of the PIDB.