May 14, 2008
Electronic and Classified Records are Overwhelming the National Archives,
According to Senate Testimony by Archive Director
For more information contact:
Thomas Blanton - 202/994-7000
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).
Government witnesses at the hearing included the Hon. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States; Linda Koontz, Director, Information and Management Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office; and Paul Brachfeld, Inspector General, National Archives and Records Administration. Blanton appeared on the second panel along with Patrice McDermott, Director, OpenTheGovernment.org; James Henderson, Former State Archivist of Maine, and George Mason University Professor Martin J. Sherwin on behalf of the National Coalition for History.