The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) sent agency declassification program managers a questionnaire on the status of their automatic declassification programs. ISOO is interested in learning how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent National Emergency declaration has affected agency declassification programs.
Over the past six weeks as agencies began to add more staff at work sites, ISOO has received several emails and telephone inquiries from agency declassification program offices requesting additional information on the status of the automatic declassification deadlines for the 2020 calendar year. Several agencies have expressed concern that they will not be able to meet their review obligations by the December 31st deadline due to the pandemic and have inquired about options for waivers or delays to the onset of automatic declassification.
ISOO is currently discussing possible responses to these questions by identifying possible solutions through Executive Order 13526 and its implementing regulations. As part of this process, it is important for ISOO to have a full understanding about the challenges facing each agency. To that end, ISOO drafted an informal and short questionnaire for agencies to complete and return. ISOO plans to use this information to define the scope of the challenges facing agencies individually and collectively, in meeting the automatic declassification deadline for 2020.
Agency automatic declassification managers should have received this brief questionnaire earlier this week. ISOO requests that agencies respond by October 15th for your agency to have its information included as part of the discussion. Please send completed surveys and/or questions via unclassified email to Beth Fidler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once ISOO has received responses and compiled the data, it will review the responses individually and collectively and discuss any possible relief methods. However, it is critical to note that, at this point, it is possible that there will be no change to the December 31st, 2020 automatic declassification deadline and ISOO encourages agencies, in this last quarter, to examine automatic declassification review priorities, continue risk-based approaches to automatic declassification review, and focus review on the most sensitive equities.
Automatic Declassification Program Questionnaire 2020
- How many pages did your agency review for automatic declassification between 1/1/2020 and 3/13/2020, the date on which the President declared a National Emergency?
- How many pages did your agency review between 3/14/2020 and 9/30/2020?
- How many pages do you estimate your agency will review between 10/1/2020 and 12/31/2020?
- How many pages do you estimate your agency will be unable to review by 12/31/2020 and how long do you estimate it will take your agency to complete those reviews?
- Has your agency experienced delays in processing Mandatory Declassification Review requests and/or FOIA requests (if your office processes FOIA (b)(1) reviews)? If so, can you describe your agency’s efforts and provide information on your agency MDR and FOIA backlogs?