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Rounds, Cornyn and Colleagues Introduce Bill to Reform Security Classification System

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and eight of their Senate colleagues introduced the Sensible Classification Act of 2023. This bipartisan legislation would increase accountability and oversight of the classification system, limit overclassification and direct federal agencies to justify security clearance requirements.

“We place our national security at risk by adhering to a classification system rooted in the Cold War,” said Rounds. “This bill takes meaningful steps to modernize our classification system, which will result in more rapid decision-making, greater agility and improved situational awareness for those who defend our country from 21st century threats.”

“Controlling access to sensitive information enables the U.S. to remain at least one step ahead of its adversaries, but declassification gives us the opportunity to work with our allies around the world and show the American people what their government is doing,” said Cornyn. “This bill would modernize the process for classification, ensure the safety and security of what should be classified, and make the declassification process more efficient as we seek to strike the delicate balance between transparency and secrecy.”

The classification system is in urgent need of reform. Technology has made it easier to classify files, but greater accountability and oversight is needed to carry out appropriate and timely declassification to rebuild trust between the government and the American people. Too many individuals have access to classified information, which contributes to rampant overclassification and lack of accountability.

Specifically, the Sensible Classification Act of 2023 would:

  • Codify classification authority as the president, vice president, head of an agency or the individual to whom such authority has been delegated in line with current practice pursuant to Executive Order 13526 and specify how the authority is delegated and the training required to receive it.
  • Promote efficient declassification for records under the Freedom of Information Act or Mandatory Declassification Review.
  • Require training to promote sensible classification.
  • Improve the Public Interest Declassification Board by allowing for additional staff to be hired and allowing members to serve until a successor is appointed.
  • Direct the federal government to develop a federated and integrated technology solution to the issue of classification and declassification.
  • Direct federal agencies to conduct a study on the necessity of number and types of security clearances with sufficient justification.

Joining Rounds and Cornyn in introducing this legislation are Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).


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