By: DEBRA GERSH HERNANDEZ
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ARE spending nearly $6 billion a year for document classification and security, but less than one percent of that is spent on declassification.
According to figures released by Rep. David Skaggs (D-Colo.), government agencies spent an estimated $2,705,938,957 in fiscal year 1995 and $2,741,987,125 in fiscal year 1996 for document classification and related security, with an additional $2,933,901,000 in 1995 to reimburse private contractors for document security costs (1996 figures are not yet available).
Skaggs’ office estimated that about $15 million to $25 million is spent each year on declassification.
Steven Garfinkel, director of the National Security Oversight Office at the National Archives and Records Administration, put the declassification figure in the neighborhood of $20 million, “”maybe a little bit more.””
The reports were coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget and the National Archives and Records Administration. They do not include data from the Central Intelligence Agency, which chose to keep its figure classified, nor from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which did not return a report.
“”They would not permit us to camouflage their figures by adding them to another agency’s number, because they wanted to keep their figures distinct,”” Garfinkel said of the CIA.
For example, he said, the “”Department of Defense figures include the DoD and other elements of the National Foreign Intelligence [Program] community. It includes agencies like the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency and other parts of the intelligence community. The others may be classified, but when they are [grouped together] under the Department of Defense, they are unclassified. If you take them out, they may need to be classified.
“”We know the CIA’s number, but it is classified,”” he added.
Garfinkel guessed that the estimate for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Czar’s office, would be “”relatively small. It’s not going to have much impact on the [total] number at all.””
Skaggs has been fighting for release of these classification spending reports as a means to control costs. Recently approved language in a Treasury-Postal Service funding bill would require the same tabulations for 1997.
“”It’s hard to discipline spending unless you know how much it is,”” Skaggs commented. “”When I started this effort, classification costs were buried in agency budgets . . . . These reports are helping to clear the fog that has covered a document classification system stuck on autopilot ? indiscriminately stamping ‘Top Secret’ on thousands of documents every year.””
Most of the classification costs were attributed to the Department of Defense, with the above-mentioned intelligence inclusions, which was estimated to have spent $2,526,091,000 in fiscal year 1996 on security classification costs.
Other agencies estimated to have spent more than a million dollars for security classification costs in fiscal year 1996 were: the Department of Energy, $98,474,000; the Department of State, $30,157,000; the Department of Justice, $27,756,564; the Department of the Treasury, $12,377,000; the Department of Commerce, $10,187,291; the National Archives and Records Administration, $9,520,000; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, $8,760,500; the Department of Transportation, $3,629,000; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, $2,756,800; the Department of the Interior, $2,535,000; the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, $1,963,000; the U.S. Agency for International Development, $1,691,000; the Department of Agriculture, $1,140,200; the U.S. Information Agency, $1,228,000; and the General Services Administration, $1,005,000.
Reporting agencies estimated to have spent less than a million were: the Environmental Protection Agency, $553,000; the Federal Reserve Board, $327,000; the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $281,000; the Department of Health and Human Services, $245,600; the Executive Office of the President, Office of Administration, $138,000; the Department of Labor, $105,000; the Export-Import Bank of the United States, $65,000; the Federal Communications Commission, $53,000; the Department of Veterans Affairs, $8,570; and the Marine Mammal Commission, $1,000.
Since this data has only been collected twice, it is too early to start plotting any trends, Garfinkel said.
“”Now, we’re trying to establish a base line, but even that is going to be an estimate,”” he said, explaining that because classification is an overhead expense, not a specific budget line item, it is difficult to extrapolate the precise cost.
“”It’s really such a new exercise, the noteworthiness comes in a year or two, or maybe five years from now,”” he said. “”The number is supposed to go down.
“”In the short term, they will be spending more money on declassification, [because of an executive order mandating declassification of certain documents], but in the long term, you want to see that figure go down,”” he said.
“”Ideally, to get the stuff declassified more quickly, that number needs to be a little higher,”” Garfinkel added, pointing out, however, that there are legislative and fiscal constraints.
“”In the past, [declassification costs] would come out of some other part of the budget,”” he said. “”In most instances, there is no separate authority for declassification.””With a couple of the appropriations being authorized for the next fiscal year, there are limits or specified amounts for declassification. That’s different than it has been in the past,”” he remarked.
Garfinkel said he is seeing a move toward separating classification and declassification costs in reporting agency budgets.
“”I think Congress is demanding greater accountability of where the money is being spent,”” he said. “”I think that is an appropriate thing. If we can’t identify where we are spending the money, we shouldn’t be spending it.””
spending $6 billion a year to keep documents classified
What Government Spent In Fiscal 1996
To Keep Information Secret*
Department of Defenses$2,526,091,000
Department of Energy98,474,000
Department of State30,157,000
Department of Justice27,756,564
Department of Treasury12,377,000
Department of Commerce10,187,291
National Archives and Records Administration9,520,000
National Aeronautics and Space Administration8,760,500
Department of Transportation3,629,000
Nuclear Regulatory Commission2,756,800
Department of Interior2,535,000
U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency1,963,000
U.S. Agency for International Development1,691,000
Department of Agriculture1,140,200
U.S. Information Agency1,228,000
General Services Administration1,005,000
Environmental Protection Agency553,000
Federal Reserve Board327,000
Federal Emergency Management Agency281,000
Department of Health and Human Services245,600
Executive Office of the President, Office of Administration138,000
Department of Labor105,000
Export-Import Bank of the United States65,000
Federal Communications Commission53,000
Department of Veterans Affairs8,570
Marine Mammal Commission1,000
* Does not include data from the Central Intelligence Agency, which chose tokeep the
information classified, nor from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which did not
return a report.
SOURCE: Based on information coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget and the National Archives and Records Administration
July 20, 1996 n Editor & Publisher #