WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to discuss the federal government’s process for classifying and declassifying information, as well as how Congress can modernize the federal classification system to help streamline this process. The hearing also highlighted how the outdated federal declassification process limits transparency for the American people and costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year. During the hearing, Peters also discussed his plans to work on bipartisan legislation to modernize the classification system.
“Every year, a whopping 50 million new classified documents are created,” said Peters during his opening statement. “Although there are existing requirements to automatically declassify documents after 25 years, in practice that process is ineffective, and there is currently a backlog of hundreds of millions of pages that are awaiting declassification. Along with outdated technology, the result is an overburdened classification system that costs taxpayers more than $18 billion a year to maintain.”
Peters continued: “Experts, both within and outside of the federal government, estimate that between 50 and 90 percent of all classified materials could be made public without compromising national security, and that the over-classification of documents reduces transparency and erodes public confidence in the federal government.”
To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks, click here. For text of Peters’ opening remarks, click here.
To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions, click here.
During the hearing, the witnesses discussed how technologies like artificial intelligence could help federal agencies better manage the enormous amount of new classified documents that are created every year, and how Congress should play a larger role in setting classification policy. Peters also highlighted how improving the declassification process would save taxpayer dollars in the long run. Finally, Peters and the witnesses discussed what resources agencies need to ensure they are better prepared to process and store increasing amounts of digital classified information.