Washington DC, May 14, 2008 – The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is overwhelmed and behind the curve, facing huge increases in both electronic records and classified records, according to Congressional testimony today by National Security Archive director Tom Blanton.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, chaired by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), asked for the National Security Archive’s expert testimony for an oversight hearing on NARA under the title “Protecting Our Nation’s History for Future Generations.”
Blanton warned: “[T]he National Archives today faces two overwhelming challenges – the exponential increase in government-held electronic records, and the geometric increase in currently classified and previously declassified records – with which NARA has neither the resources nor the strategy to cope.”
On electronic records, Blanton cited the case of the White House e-mail to argue for Congressional mandates to agencies that they include archiving requirements at the front end of information technology procurement (the government spends $68 billion a year on IT, compared to NARA’s total budget of about $400 million and electronic archiving budget of $67 million), and for a much more active leadership and auditing role for NARA.
On classified records, the Archive’s testimony urged Congress to impose a “classification tax” on federal agencies (the government currently spends more than $8 billion a year keeping secrets and only $44 million declassifying them) to fund a National Declassification Center. The Archive also recommended that Congress change the standards for current classification and for release of historical records, with independent review boards providing oversight (following the highly successful models of the Kennedy Assassination Records Act and the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act).
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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.