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May 15, 2023

Collins, King Introduce Bill to Reform National Security Classification System

Legislation would streamline declassification process while modernizing and reviewing existing security clearances

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have joined a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues to introduce legislation that would reform and modernize the United States’ classification system. The Sensible Classification Act of 2023 would increase accountability and oversight of the classification system, limit overclassification, and direct federal agencies to justify security clearance requirements.

"Protecting our national security is of paramount importance, and this bill will ensure that that our classification system safeguards both the public’s access to information and properly aligns the classification levels to the critical intelligence that does indeed need protection,” said Senator Collins.

“We have an overclassification problem, a declassification problem, and – as we’ve clearly seen over the last few weeks – an access to information problem,” said Senator King. “The Sensible Classification Act of 2023 will spell out what information merits a classification, how long the classification lasts, and who is permitted access to that classified information. With an everchanging landscape of technology and threats, it’s an important step to promote public trust and keep Americans safe.”

The Sensible Classification Act of 2023 will codify classification authority, streamline the processes for declassification, direct training focused on sensible classification, invest in new technology to modernize the classification system, and direct a review regarding the necessity of existing security clearances to identify potential areas for additional reforms. Introduced in tandem with Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Warner’s Classification Reform Act that Senator King has cosponsored, this legislation:

  • Codifies 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 specifies how the authority is delegated and the training required to receive it;
  • Promotes efficient declassification for records under the Freedom of Information Act or Mandatory Declassification Review;
  • Requires training to promote sensible classification;
  • Improves the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) by allowing for additional staff to be hired and allowing members to serve until a successor is appointed;
  • Directs the federal government to develop a federated and integrated technology solution to the issue of classification and declassification;
  • And directs federal agencies to conduct a study on the necessity of number and types of security clearances with sufficient justification.

The bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

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